Rom­ney’s turn­ing point?

The fron­trun­ner has a chance to break away from the pack

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

This week’s Su­per Tues­day con­tests could prove to be the turn­ing point for the Re­pub­li­can nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent. Vot­ers go to the polls in 10 states, with 437 del­e­gates up for the tak­ing. There’s still a long way to go with 1,144 del­e­gates needed to se­cure the nom­i­na­tion, but a good Su­per Tues­day show­ing can pro­pel a cam­paign to­ward the fin­ish line. With five straight wins, Mitt Rom­ney has taken the mo­men­tum away from Rick San­to­rum, but — at this point — any­one could still come out on top.

One of the most im­por­tant prizes is Ohio. No Re­pub­li­can in his­tory has even been elected pres­i­dent with­out win­ning Ohio in Novem­ber, so far­ing well in the Buck­eye State pri­mary can fore­shadow how the gen­eral elec­tion may turn. Given that win­ning this state is es­sen­tial for the GOP, it wouldn’t be promis­ing if the even­tual nom­i­nee were un­pop­u­lar there.

A week ago, Mr. San­to­rum was up 7 points in Ohio. Af­ter a se­ries of vic­to­ries, how­ever, Mr. Rom­ney has ral­lied and is in the pole po­si­tion again. Ac­cord­ing to a new Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity poll, the for­mer Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor leads the for­mer Penn­syl­va­nia se­na­tor 34 per­cent to 31 per­cent. The same dy­namic played out on Feb. 28 in neigh­bor­ing Michi­gan, where Mr. San­to­rum was ahead a week out be­fore Mr. Rom­ney surged, win­ning his boy­hood home state by 3 points.

To date, none of the run­ners have bro­ken away from the pack in the race for del­e­gates. Mr. Rom­ney leads with 203 del­e­gates to Mr. San­to­rum’s 92, with Texas Rep. Ron Paul and for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich run­ning be­hind with 25 and 33 del­e­gates re­spec­tively. A wind­fall on Tues­day could put any­body up front. There are 63 del­e­gates up for grabs in Ohio alone. The other Su­per Tues­day states are Virginia, Ver­mont, Mas­sachusetts, Ten­nessee, Ge­or­gia, Alaska, North Dakota, Ok­la­homa and Idaho. Mas­sachusetts and bor­der­ing Ver­mont are easy pick­ups for the for­mer gov­er­nor of the Bay State. Virginia should be too, con­sid­er­ing that nei­ther Mr. Gin­grich nor Mr. San­to­rum made it onto the bal­lot there de­spite both liv­ing in the com­mon­wealth.

Per­haps Mr. Rom­ney’s big­gest ad­van­tage is that his op­po­si­tion is di­vided. There is some lin­ger­ing dis­con­tent among the party base that the fron­trun­ner isn’t con­ser­va­tive enough, but the var­i­ous fac­tions can’t unify be­hind a sin­gle al­ter­na­tive. In this way, the race can be seen as Mr. Rom­ney ver­sus the other three, with Mr. Gin­grich, Mr. Paul and Mr. San­to­rum help­ing Mr. Rom­ney win pri­maries and cau­cuses by split­ting up the “any­body but Rom­ney” vote. Speed­ing up the process isn’t a bad thing for the GOP be­cause the sooner this di­vi­sive in­tra­party fight is over the bet­ter. Elephants need to re­di­rect their rhetor­i­cal fire from one an­other and start aim­ing it at the ul­ti­mate tar­get: Pres­i­dent Obama.

The Re­pub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment is cir­cling the wag­ons around Mr. Rom­ney. Over the week­end, Mitt was en­dorsed by House Ma­jor­ity Leader Eric Can­tor of Virginia and Ok­la­homa Sen. Tom Coburn, both stal­wart con­ser­va­tives whose states are in play on Su­per Tues­day. Sen. Bob Port­man is stump­ing for him in Ohio. With a lit­tle help from his friends, Mr. Rom­ney is poised to nail down some im­por­tant wins and turn the tide for good.

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