Romney Racing to Retool For November, Obama Team Readies Attacks

BY Christina Bellantoni  April 11, 2012 at 8:56 AM EST

Mitt Romney; photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Mitt Romney campaigns Tuesday at R.C. Fabricators in Wilmington, Del. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Rick Santorum’s exit from the presidential primary race made the next 140 days a whole lot easier for Mitt Romney.

All signs pointed to the former Massachusetts governor claiming the GOP nod at the Republican National Convention on that date, but between now and then Romney can freely retool his campaign to position for the general election and raise the money he’ll need to battle President Obama.

Instead of conversations about delegate counts, Team Romney will be laying out paths to victory in swing states.

You can get a head start with the NewsHour’s Vote 2012 Map Center, which allows you to play out Electoral College scenarios.

The path for a Republican victory on Nov. 6 runs through Pennsylvania, so any time Romney spends there won’t be wasted.

Santorum bowed out in part to avoid what could have been an image-tarnishing loss in his home state, but also to preserve any future he may have within the Republican Party in the short and long terms. His campaign told reporters that it was a combination of factors, including his 3-year-old daughter Bella’s health condition.

But Santorum told his supporters in a fundraising email late Tuesday that he realized he couldn’t win. “Our good friends in Texas have been working non-stop to make sure that they have a say in the choice of our nominee, but without the state changing its delegate allocation to winner-take-all, I do not see a path forward that does not risk our shared objective of defeating Barack Obama in November,” he wrote in the email.

Asking for help retiring his campaign debt, Santorum noted that he was outspent by 5-1 “or even 10-1″ in most states. But still, he said: “We have made history. There has been no other Presidential comeback race like ours.”

Politico’s Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman have more details about Santorum’s next move. They wrote that on a Tuesday afternoon conference call, he asked his backers for advice.

From the story:

He could potentially return to his old gigs as a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist or a guest host for radio-talker Bill Bennett, sources said…Santorum could also serve as an effective fundraiser or campaigner for some House and Senate candidates in handpicked congressional districts with conservatives voter who were responsive to his message and got to know him in the presidential primary.

The big news led Tuesday’s NewsHour, and Judy Woodruff talked with Jim O’Toole from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Susan Page of USA Today about how Santorum and Romney might be able to mend fences.

Watch the segment here or below.

You can watch Santorum’s farewell speech here or below.

Notably missing from his remarks was a Romney endorsement. As Felicia Sonmez reports in the Washington Post, had Santorum simply ended his campaign, his delegates would be free to back anyone they choose. But since it was a suspension (done so he can keep raising money), that means there are 197 people tied to his candidacy.

Sonmez writes:

Of Santorum’s 281 total delegates (according to the Associated Press count), 84 were won in five states that award their delegates in nonbinding contests.

That means that the delegates from those five states — Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Washington state and North Dakota – had already been free to vote for any candidate at the convention and remain free to do so.

The remaining 197 of Santorum’s delegates, according to the AP tally, are bound to the former Pennsylvania senator — meaning that unless Santorum explicitly states that he is releasing them, those delegates are required to vote for Santorum at the Tampa convention.

MONEY MEN UNITING

The Santorum-supporting Red White and Blue Fund hasn’t announced its next move, but the man who bankrolled much of the super PAC’s spending has promised to back Romney.

Mega-donor Foster Friess told Politico Tuesday, “I’m obviously going to be of help in whatever way I can.” He said he has “some plans as to how I might be able to be of help,” but the bottom line is “I’m going to be very supportive.”

In a statement, Red White and Blue Fund founder Nick Ryan said, “There is no doubt Rick Santorum has a bright future as a leader in the Republican party.” He also noted Republicans can “strengthen the conservative majority in the House of Representatives and…oust the liberal leadership in the Senate,” a hint of where the super PAC could focus its priorities.

WELCOME TO THE NEXT SIX MONTHS

It’s far from shocking that Obama campaign manager Jim Messina used the Santorum news to needle Romney. In a statement, Messina said it was “no surprise that Mitt Romney finally was able to grind down his opponents under an avalanche of negative ads. But neither he nor his special interest allies will be able to buy the presidency with their negative attacks.”

Even less of a surprise? Team Obama is out Wednesday morning with a web video reprising its playlist of Romney’s greatest hits, all fodder that you can expect to see in attack ads this fall.

Watch it here or below.

Each man’s vision for the government’s role in the economy and how much people should pay for infrastructure and social services will play a major role in the coming presidential contest.

At the center of that debate is the Democratic push for the so-called Buffett Rule of increasing taxes on the richest Americans.

After Mr. Obama called for his plan to pass Congress, Jeffrey Brown hosted a NewsHour discussion to dive deeper. The White House’s Gene Sperling offered his take, followed by Republican and former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

Watch the segment here or below.

CALLING ALL PENNSYLVANIANS!

Are you a voter in the Keystone State?

The primary might be a done deal, but we’d love to hear from you. Please fill out the NewsHour’s quick survey on Public Insight Network.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Both Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul mentioned Tampa in their statements about Santorum’s exit, indicating they won’t follow suit.

  • Tom Fitzgerald writes on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer that it could have been social issues that did in Santorum’s campaign.

  • With Santorum gone, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey stepped forward to endorse Romney.

  • Thursday is the six-year anniversary of Romney’s signing of his health care plan in Massachusetts, and Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick’s office says he will hold an event with “a diverse group of leaders in business, health care, patient advocacy, labor and government at Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall to celebrate the success of the reform.”

  • Gingrich’s campaign bounced a $500 check to get on the June 26 Utah primary ballot.

  • ABC/Yahoo News power trio David Chalian, Amy Walter and Rick Klein talk about the myth that is the $1 billion Obama campaign.

  • Bill Varian of the Tampa Bay Times writes that the president will return to Florida at the end of the week to announce some trade initiatives.

  • Rick Perlstein has a detailed profile in Rolling Stone of mega-donor and Gingrich backer Sheldon Adelson.

  • Ruth Marcus outlines Romney’s challenge with women voters.

  • Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies put out a new television ad hitting the president on gas prices. The $1.7 million ad buy will run on broadcast and cable networks in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia. You can watch it here.

  • Matt Mackowiak writes a column for the Washington Times detailing the Republican National Committee’s financial turnaround and the money fight ahead.

  • Gawker teams up with a disgruntled Fox News employee, who gives the site video of Romney telling Sean Hannity all about his dressage horses.

  • The Associated Press reports on Romney’s long to-do list as he moves to the general election.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • Cynthia Gordy writes for The Root about the battle for the House majority.

  • Halimah Abdullah writes for The Grio that African-American politicians are still struggling to win other major offices.

  • With the main event less exciting, keep an eye on the member-vs.-member primary contests in Pennsylvania House races. Shira Toeplitz of Roll Call has the latest on the Democratic fight between Rep. Mark Critz and Rep. Jason Altmire.

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was indeed amused by the Tumblr site parodying her text messages and even needled the creators on an autographed submission of her own.

  • NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels on cuts to California’s community colleges.

NewsHour politics desk assistant Ryan C. Brooks contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • Mitt Romney will host a campaign event in Hartford, Conn. at 12:55 p.m. He will also hold a town hall in Warwick, Rhode Island at 6:25 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich visits a senior center in Newark, Delaware at 10 a.m. and holds a town hall in Dover at 7 p.m.

  • Ron Paul will hold a town hall in Ft. Worth, Texas at 8 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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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, @suddinengel and @kpolantz.