The Horserace Ends

Andrew Sullivan —  Mar 21 2012 @ 12:19pm

Kilgore calls it:

To put it simply, April should be gangbusters for Romney, and might well put it so far out of reach that Santorum gives up or donors give up on him. If he survives, though, Santorum could have a false spring in May, when primaries are dominated by the South. The final hammer comes down in June when winner-take-all New Jersey and Utah, plus winner-take-all-by-congressional-district California, are almost certain to go massively for Mitt.

Nate Silver basically calls it:

At the betting market Intrade, Mr. Santorum is now given just a 1.5 percent chance of winning the nomination — lower than the combined total for a series of dark-horse figures like Jeb Bush, Sarah Palin and Chris Christie, who together have about a 3 percent chance. The race will continue on until Mr. Romney clinches or everyone else quits, but the only real question is whether Mr. Romney could somehow beat himself.

Romney-IL_I think it's over now too, in the simple sense that I don't see an open convention fight – just a war of attrition. And if Romney hasn't beaten himself by now – how many damaging gaffes can he utter and still remain the front-runner? – it would take some enormous screw-up to falter in the next month or two. 

Nonetheless, I note that in a state where Romney did very well, with a 12 point margin over Santorum, that he still lost non-college educated whites by 7 percent and was essentially tied with Santorum among those earning under $50,000 a year. I think this means real vulnerability to the attack line coming in the fall that he is the Wall Street mega-rich candidate who wants even more tax cuts for people like him and Ryan-style cuts in the safety net.

And he still lost the white evangelical vote by seven points.

I don't think his weakness among the very conservative matters much for the general. They'll turn out for him. But I do think his continued weakness with the core enthusiasts in the GOP base, white evangelicals, is a potential problem for turnout this November. Some of it is surely about his Mormonism; some of it his patrician Yankee style. But he'll need something powerful to motivate these voters, while not poisoning his appeal to moderate Republicans by emphasizing issues like abortion, gays and contraception.

My bet? Probably Israel. It's the one issue where he can call Obama an Islamist trying to destroy the Jewish state. Of course he won't say that. But others will. And he'll echo them in code.

(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty.)