Race Moves to Illinois, Louisiana After Romney Wins Puerto Rico

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  March 19, 2012 at 9:14 AM EDT

Mitt Romney; photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Mitt Romney greets a crowd outside the Machine Shed Restaurant in Rockford, Ill., on Sunday. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Mitt Romney pulled further ahead in the race for the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the Republican Party nomination with an overwhelming victory Sunday in the Puerto Rico primary, but the GOP presidential contest showed no signs of coming to an end anytime soon.

The former Massachusetts governor captured all 20 of the delegates from the U.S. territory, bringing his total to 521, according to a tally by the Associated Press. Rick Santorum remained in second with 253 delegates, followed by Newt Gingrich with 136 and Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 50.

Romney and Santorum both campaigned in Puerto Rico last week, but Santorum caused a stir when he said that English would have to be the island’s “main language” to become a U.S. state.

The former Pennsylvania senator offered his congratulations to Romney in a statement Sunday, needling the front-runner and suggesting he lost because he refused to compromise.

“We all know Mitt Romney will do and say anything to get votes, and this is just another example of that. I think the 90 percent of Americans who believe English should be the official language of this country must be wondering why Mitt Romney disagrees with that,” Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement. “Mitt Romney says he supports English as the official language of America while on the mainland, but then says Puerto Ricans don’t have to learn English while he’s on Puerto Rico.”

The GOP race now moves to Illinois on Tuesday, where 69 delegates are up for grabs, and Louisiana on Saturday, with 46 delegates at stake.

As the four remaining Republican contenders continue to hunt for delegates, talk of a potential floor fight at the party convention in late August has started to heat up.

The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg reported on Sunday’s front page that campaign and party lawyers are “dusting off their party rule books, running through decades-old procedural arcana and studying the most recent convention-floor fight, between Ronald Reagan and President Gerald R. Ford in 1976.” It could set up the first national clash between the GOP establishment and Tea Party activists, they wrote.

The key part of the piece is how each campaign is attempting to exploit delegate rules when the party arrives in Tampa to crown the Republican nominee:

The jockeying in the delegate race is causing the campaigns to work through a labyrinthine set of state rules under which delegate allocation does not always track with the popular vote in primaries and caucuses.

In many cases, states award a mix of bound delegates who head to the convention under the requirement that they vote for the winner or, in some cases, the second-place finisher, in their Congressional districts, and unbound, free to vote for whom they please.

The delegates will be selected at scores of county and state party conventions that carry on through July and are now being lobbied by the presidential campaigns, which know every delegate could count.

Randy Evans, Mr. Gingrich’s lawyer and senior adviser, said that to reach 1,144, Mr. Romney would have to rely on some of the more than 100 unbound delegates from around the country who have so far given him oral commitments, and “we know in politics how valuable those are.”

Mr. Romney’s campaign said it might have to rely on such commitments, but was not concerned.

Mr. Santorum and Mr. Gingrich believe that they will have an edge over Mr. Romney among the party delegates because, as Mr. Santorum’s new delegate strategist, John P. Yob, said, “the people who show up for county, district and state conventions are much more conservative than your average primary voters.”

CAMPAIGN CASH

President Obama’s campaign team announced Monday morning via Twitter that the president raised more than $45 million from 348,000 donors in February. The average donation was $59.04, and since Mr. Obama announced his re-election bid in April, 1.64 million people have given cash.

The campaign also posted a video showcasing its state-by-state organizations and detailing what it was able to do with the money in February, including opening seven field offices in Ohio.

Watch here or below.

ALL ABOUT ILLINOIS

The GOP candidates are barnstorming President Obama’s home state of Illinois before its big primary Tuesday, and Romney and his allies are spending heavily to make sure he wins big.

Romney’s wife Ann has been telling voters that the contest is a chance to send a message “that it’s time to coalesce” behind her husband.

Her stepped up presence on the trail is part of the campaign’s effort to appeal to middle-class moms and female voters who can help swing the general election, the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker reported.

As Terence wrote Friday, Romney has a new ad up suggesting Santorum is an “economic lightweight.”

The GOP field don’t have the television airwaves to themselves, however. Several groups are going after the hopefuls, including the Illinois firefighters, who are targeting Romney with this 30-second spot suggesting he opposes the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program.

The Real Clear Politics average has Romney leading by 8.5 percent.

Using the NewsHour’s Vote 2012 Map Center to check out the 2008 general election results, Democratic voters are clustered in the Chicago area, while the downstate areas are more Republican. Expect Santorum to perform best in the southeastern part of the state.

NEWSHOUR NOTES

On Friday’s NewsHour, Mark Shields and David Brooks talked about the tenuous situation in Afghanistan after a tough week there. Mark compared Afghanistan to Vietnam. “This is a failed mission. Let’s be very blunt about it,” he said.

As the discussion turned to the presidential primary, David quipped it was jumping “from one quagmire to another.” His take on Romney’s path forward:

Henry Olsen of the American Enterprise Institute points out that in every place where there is a Major League baseball park, Romney carries that place. In every place where there is a AA minor league team, Santorum carries that place.

It’s been purely demographic. And if you count the demographics going forward to all these other states, the Californias and even Illinois, there are just more Romney people. So you would expect him to finally get the nomination, after an incredibly brutal and terrible slog.

Watch here or below:

On the Doubleheader, Hari Sreenivasan teases Mark for not filling out his bracket. Watch that segment here.

Gwen Ifill does the by-the-numbers of the primary contest.

2012 LINE ITEMS

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • The Washington Post offered this look at the failed “grand bargain” negotiations between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, during last year’s debate over raising the country’s borrowing limit.

  • Roll Call’s John Stanton details GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy’s tough job.

  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is out of debt and has $19 million in the bank.

  • The fight over contraception has been a fundraising boon for groups focused on the issue, Politico reports.

  • A group called Bankrupting America has a new 30-second ad airing during Sunday talk shows focusing on Washington “recklessly” spending tax dollars. You can watch the ad here. Digging a little further, it’s difficult to find any information about the group, which calls itself a nonpartisan nonprofit, other than its leader has worked for Republicans.

  • Roll Call’s Shira Toeplitz writes about the generational difference in the redistricting-fueled GOP primary between Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Don Manzullo in Illinois.

  • That member-vs.-member race also made the front page of the Washington Post, with Paul Kane writing that the Tea Party that boosted Kinzinger has now turned against him.

  • The Associated Press profiled Neil Livingstone, saying the Montana gubernatorial hopeful’s biography “reads like that of a real-life man of international intrigue, where big paydays and dealings with dictators are commonplace.”

  • Roll Call’s Election Preview is out. Learn everything you ever wanted to know about every competitive congressional race in the country.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama holds meetings at the White House and attends a campaign fundraiser at the W Hotel in Washington, D.C., at 5:05 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney campaigns in Illinois, meeting voters in Springfield at 8:20 a.m., delivering remarks on the economy in at 1:15 p.m. and holding a rally in Peoria at 6:10 p.m.

  • Rick Santorum holds four Illinois rallies: in Rockford at 10 a.m., Dixon at 1 p.m., Moline at 4 p.m. and East Peoria at 8:30 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have no public events scheduled.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers and @suddinengel.