Louisiana win steels resolve of Santorum to stay in race
Fresh off a big win in Saturday’s Louisiana primary, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum on Sunday hammered front-runner Mitt Romney by painting him as “the worst candidate” the party could put up against President Obama.
“We want someone who can win, someone who can go up against Obama and draw a clear contrast,” the former senator from Pennsylvania said during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“You’ve got someone here who can relate to the voters,” Mr. Santorum said.
With all the precincts counted, Mr. Santorum garnered 49 percent of the vote among Louisiana Republicans to 26.7 percent for Mr. Romney. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia was at 15.9 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas had 6.1 percent.
The victory is not expected to dramatically shake up the chase toward the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination, but it could give Mr. Santorum some cover from the growing chorus of Republicans who say it is time for the party to coalesce around Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.
More high-profile Republicans, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said Sunday that it’s becoming increasingly clear that Mr. Romney will be the party’s nominee. Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday” that the GOP would benefit from uniting behind Mr. Romney sooner rather than later.
Those calls have had little effect on Mr. Santorum. He is mounting another stand in Wisconsin, which votes on April 3, along with the District of Columbia and Maryland.
With its substantial delegate lead and fundraising edge, the Romney campaign, already running ads in Wisconsin, has begun to paint Mr. Santorum as a desperate man who is unwilling or unable to see that the end has arrived.
“Rick Santorum is like a football team celebrating a field goal when they are losing by seven touchdowns with less than a minute left in the game,” said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams.
The Santorum team, however, likes its chances if given a one-on-one matchup.
“This race has clearly gotten down to two candidates that can win the nomination,” Mr. Santorum said while campaigning in Wisconsin over the weekend. “I’d love to have a one-onone debate.”
That desire for a Santorum versus Romney battle could boost calls for Mr. Gingrich to step aside. The outcome in Louisiana is sure to renew questions about Mr. Gingrich’s argument for staying in the race, which at this point essentially has devolved into an effort to block Mr. Romney from collecting the magic number of 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination outright before the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., late this summer.
Mr. Gingrich won the South Carolina primary in January. Since then, his campaign’s only true bright spot was his expected victory earlier this month in Georgia, which he represented in Congress for 20 years. Despite his string of poor performances, the former speaker appears to have no intention of exiting the race before the convention.
“This is clearly still an open race,” he said Saturday. “So, on behalf of the more than 176,000 Americans who have donated to Newt 2012, I will carry our solution-oriented campaign to Tampa.”
While the Louisiana win was a coup for Mr. Santorum from a momentum standpoint, it does little to close the delegate gap. Only 20 delegates were up for grabs in the election, and 26 are scheduled to be doled out at a later date.
With Saturday’s results, Mr. Romney now has 568 delegates — 295 delegates more than Mr. Santorum’s 273. Mr. Gingrich has 135, and Mr. Paul has 50, according to estimates by the Associated Press.
Mr. Santorum, however, called those figures “bad math” on Sunday, and said he strongly disagrees with the estimated delegate totals that are being widely reported.
He also is calling attention once again to what is often viewed as Mr. Romney’s biggest weakness — his support of a government health care system in Massachusetts, a program that the administration used as a model for Mr. Obama’s health care law.
“Mitt Romney is the godfather of our health care plan,” David Plouffe, Obama senior adviser, said during Sunday’s “Meet the Press” talk show. into a letter agreement to pay more than $1 million per year toward the District’s immunization program, school system and what documents describe as several other not-for-profit organizations.
The Washington Times has obtained a list of the not-for-profit recipients during a two-year span that shows much of the cash went to the National Council of Negro Women, which Mr. Thompson has long supported. The council also is a client of his accounting firm, Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates. The firm has prepared the organization’s Internal Revenue Service returns and audited the group.
While there are no indications that the money was mishandled, the substantial payout to an organization with ties to Mr. Thompson’s firm raises questions about why the District left it to Mr. Thompson and his businesses to decide where and how much money would go to various D.C. nonprofit organizations pursuant to a legal settlement.
Ted Gest, a spokesman for the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, said Mr. Thompson has complied with all terms of the legal settlement. He declined to comment on the payments or on the method used to select nonprofit groups for funding.
Under the settlement, there was no requirement regarding the amounts paid out to each nonprofit group or which organizations received money, The Times has learned.
An attorney for Mr. Thompson declined to comment, and phone calls in recent weeks to the National Council of Negro Women were not returned.
It’s unclear how much, if anything, Mr. Thompson’s firm receives from its work for the organization. But Mr. Thompson’s firm has made prominent mention of the engagement in marketing materials.
A statement of capabilities posted on the accounting firm’s website, for instance, mentions the council at least six times while noting that it has conducted the council’s annual financial and compliance audit since 1985. In addition, the council’s statement to the Internal Revenue Service shows that Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates for years has prepared its annual financial statement to the IRS.
Under the legal settlement, the funds paid by Mr. Thompson or his businesses were to be used for community services or events to educate D.C. residents about health care issues, such as HIV/AIDS and asthma.
On the council’s website, D.C. Chartered Health Plan is listed as a sponsor of the council’s annual Black Family Reunion event.
In 2009 and 2010, the overall nonprofit payments totaled $702,000 for the two years, with the National Council of Negro Women receiving a little more than $290,000 combined. The next highest recipient was listed as Anacostia Community Fitness, which included $213,000 in funding for fitness and holistic wellness programs in Wards 6, 7 and 8, records show.
By comparison, the WhitmanWalker Clinic, which specializes is HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, received $25,000 in 2009 and was not among the more than a dozen 2010 recipients listed in city records.
Other 2009 recipients included the Children’s Hospital Foundation, $15,000; the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, $20,000; the Howard University College of Medicine, $15,000; and the Providence Hospital Foundation, $15,000.
In 2010, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts received $50,000 while other groups, such as the D.C. Primary Care Association and Mary’s Center, received smaller payments ranging from $500 to $15,000, records show.
Under the agreement, which is outlined in reports filed by D.C. Chartered Health Plan to city insurance regulators, the payouts are subject to several conditions, including the insurance plan and its parent company, Thompsonowned D.C. Healthcare Systems, being able to maintain normal operations.
The disclosure also says that if the District fails to use the funds as required, if the D.C. government is unable to account for related expenditures, or if Chartered or its Thompson-owned parent company suffers adverse financial circumstances, the commitments become void or are subject to being renegotiated.
While D.C. Chartered Health Plan is the city’s biggest Medicaid contractor, holding a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year, it’s unclear whether an ongoing federal campaign finance investigation into Mr. Thompson’s fundraising activities for city politicians will affect the company’s ability to win city contracts.
Rick Santorum gets ready to knock down some pins at a bowling alley in Fond du Lac, Wis., on Sunday. Mr. Santorum scored a big win in Louisiana on Saturday and moved on to Wisconsin in advance of the April 3 primary there.