Rick Santorum’s ‘Win or go home’ states

at 06:30 AM ET, 03/29/2012

This blog compared Rick Santorum to the “Walking Dead” the other day. But at least he’s still walking.

The question, then, is when the “Walking Dead” becomes simply the “Dead.” When does Santorum quite simply not have the ability to keep the pirate ship afloat? Where can Mitt Romney deliver the knockout blow?
Presidential candidate and former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) attends a prayer service at the Path of the Cross Evangelical Church on March 14, 2012, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Christopher Gregory/Getty Images)

Below, The Fix boils the GOP presidential race down to five “Win or go home” states for Santorum:

1. Wisconsin (April 3): Romney is a strong favorite in Maryland and the District of Columbia on Tuesday, so the real question is whether Santorum can pull a victory in Wisconsin’s primary. The Pennsylvania senator has yet to win a contested primary in the Midwest and doesn’t sound optimistic about Wisconsin, but it might be hard for him to continue if he loses.

And given the three-week layoff between these three contests and the next ones, Santorum needs something to hang his hat on (and keep donors interested enough to keep the lights on).

2. Pennsylvania (April 24): A new poll out Wednesday from Franklin and Marshall College showed Romney creeping up on Santorum in the former senator’s home state, moving into a statistical tie.

If Santorum lost here, it’s hard to see how he continues — especially given that basically all the other states holding contests on April 24 (Connecticut, Delaware, New York, and Rhode Island) should all give Romney a victory and a pretty sizeable delegate prize.

If Romney wins Pennsylvania, he’s probably gone 5-for-5 that day.

3. North Carolina (May 8): Assuming Santorum makes it to this point, early May is actually quite favorable to the senator. On May 8, he should be a favorite in heavily conservative West Virginia and may also have the edge in Indiana; the real contest that day, though, will be in North Carolina.

A poll from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling this week showed he and Romney in a dead heat, tied at 30 percent in the Tar Heel State. If Santorum can win here and sweep all three May 8 states, he’s got an argument to bring this thing all the way to the end.

4. Texas (May 29): Santorum should be able to win some more states in mid-May, particularly in Arkansas, Kentucky and Nebraska. If he does, he makes it to his big delegate prize: Texas.

The state’s 155 delegates are handed out on a proportional basis, which means Romney will be able to win a good number of them. For Santorum, it’s all about holding that number down and winning the state.

5. California (June 5): If it gets to this point, then it’s all about delegates. And California and New Jersey are the delegate prizes of the last major day of the presidential nominating contest.

No, Santorum doesn’t have much of a chance to win these states. The most recent polls show him down double digits. But given the fact that New Jersey is winner-take-all and California is winner-take-all by congressional district, they are goldmines for Romney’s delegate total, and Santorum probably needs to win at least one of them to keep Romney below 1,144 delegates.

Our hunch is that California might be easier, but both are pretty tough for Santorum.

Rubio’s endorses Romney: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) endorsed Romney on Wednesday night, handing Romney one of the big endorsement prizes of the 2012 GOP presidential race.

“It’s increasingly clear that Mitt Romney’s gonna be the Republican nominee,” Rubio said on Fox News’s “Hannity.” “We’ve got to come together behind who I think has earned this nomination, and that’s Mitt Romney.”

It remains to be seen if the endorsement has an effect, but it’s clear that the Republican Party is now coalescing.

Nobody but Romney has landed these kinds of endorsements, and it seems only a matter of time before the holdouts (like Rubio, until Wednesday) come around to Romney.

Romney super PAC taking no chances in Maryland: Despite his expected victory in Maryland, the top super PAC supporting Romney is taking no chances in Maryland, spending nearly $900,000 in the state.

The expenditure, reported Wednesday to the Federal Election Commission, makes Maryland one of the super PAC’s bigger investments to date, but isn’t on par with pivotal states like Ohio and Michigan.

Still, it demonstrates at least some concern about a potentially problematic result in the state on Tuesday.

Adelson says Gingrich is about finished : Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has made a name for himself by plugging $16.5 million into a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich, sounds like he’s done with all that.

In an interview with the Jewish Journal, Adelson said Gingrich is “at the end of his line” when it comes to winning the GOP nomination.

At the same time, Adelson didn’t sound very keen on the other top candidates.

“I know Rick. I like him,” Adelson said. “We’re friendly. But I got to tell you something: I don’t want him running my country.”

Romney, Adelson added, is “not the bold decision maker like Newt Gingrich is.”

Needless to say, though, a guy who thinks his candidate is done isn’t likely to throw good money after bad.

Fixbits:

Former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson continues to look like the GOP’s best bet in the state’s open Senate race, leading Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) by 4 percent in a new Rasmussen poll while others trail her. Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani is set to back Thompson.

Florida congressional candidate and state Rep. Luis Garcia (D) continues to deride the DCCC.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) presses Obama to clarify his ”flexibility” comment to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

New Hampshire makes some progress on its redistricting map.

Must-reads:

Supreme Court’s health-care ruling could deal dramatic blow to Obama presidency” — Amy Gardner, Washington Post

Pact on third-party ads seems to be working in Massachusetts” — Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnam, Washington Post

Santorum’s Narrow Coalition: A New Look” — Ronald Brownstein, National Journal

Rick Santorum Tones Down the Attacks” — Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times

 
Read what others are saying