Santorum Suspends Campaign as Romney Strengthens Lead

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Julian Moore
Staff Writer

Photo Courtesy http://www.ricksantorum.com/

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney netted three more primary wins last Tuesday in his bid to become the Republican nominee for president, sweeping Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Romney took nearly all of the available delegates last week, leaving former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum with a mere nine delegates in Wisconsin. Despite holding less than half of Romney’s support in the primary, Santorum vowed to keep his campaign alive until the Republican National Convention in August, or until one of the remaining candidates clinched the primary with 1,144 delegates. After last Tuesday’s primaries, Republican candidates have three weeks to prepare for contests in five northeastern states, including Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania.

In two winner-take-all contests, in which only the candidate who finishes first receives delegates, Romney added 55 delegates in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Romney also earned 33 delegates from his first-place finish in Wisconsin, and established his commanding lead over Republican rivals still in the nomination race.

Romney currently has 658 delegates, more than twice that of Rick Santorum, who has 281, and nearly five times former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s 135.

Pollsters and pundits predicted the Romney wins days before voting began, despite an early lead by Santorum’s in Wisconsin. A mere three weeks ago, Santorum held a single-digit lead over Romney among Republicans in the state, which evaporated after a slew of Romney campaign ads aired just before the primary.

Santorum’s support in Wisconsin depended largely on his popularity with socially conservative Christians, a strategy that had previously helped boost his campaign in other states as an alternative to the socially moderate Romney. While in Wisconsin, Santorum openly supported a proposed Wisconsin Personhood Amendment to the state constitution that would “extend the inalienable right to life found in the Wisconsin Constitution to all preborn children from the beginning of their lives.” The law would amend Section 1 of the Wisconsin State Constitution to include unborn children of pregnant women in its protection of human rights. Santorum has often criticized Romney for his relatively centrist positions on issues such as gay marriage, abortion and the right to teach evolution in public schools, referring to himself as the “true conservative” when compared to Romney.

Last week’s victories have put Romney at a strong advantage to take the nomination before August, and have reignited political pundits’ framing of Romney as the “inevitable” nominee. Santorum, meanwhile, has promised a win in late April when he comes to his home state of Pennsylvania. A Wenzel Strategies poll from the end of March indicated a 20-point lead for Santorum over Romney in Pennsylvania, but by April 3, that lead has reduced to a mere six points. Despite the close contests scheduled for late April, on Sunday Newt Gingrich acknowledged Romney as the most likely candidate to win the nomination, and emphasized that Republicans’ main goal in October will be to “defeat Barack Obama.”

Last Wednesday, Santorum announced that he would suspend his campaign for a period of four days to tend to the health of his three-year-old daughter. Bella Santorum suffers from Trisomy 18, a genetic disorder that can stunt physical and mental development, and was hospitalized over the weekend, causing Santorum to extend his campaign’s suspension. On Monday, Mitt Romney’s campaign announced it would pull a series of television ads in Pennsylvania, which the Romney campaign acknowledged were designed to attack Santorum. Having spent nearly $3 million in Pennsylvania already, the Romney campaign has instead asked television stations to replace these ads with pro-Romney segments.

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