Romney turns to Obama
Washington (CNN) — As likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney aims his firepower at President Barack Obama, he still has to protect his flank from rival Rick Santorum in a primary battle that Romney has all but won.
The former Massachusetts governor painted that picture while campaigning Thursday in Pennsylvania ahead of the state’s April 24 primary.
Asked if Santorum, the ex-senator from Pennsylvania, would win in his home state, Romney said, “I think everybody expects someone to win their home state. Newt Gingrich won his state. I won my state. I think people expect the senator to win his home state. But I hope to pick up a lot of delegates, and we have several other states in the contest on the same day. I would like to win all of those, and if I can win the others and pick up some delegates here, it would give me a stronger lead.”
But at the same time Romney quickly pivoted to the general election, adding that “I think I will win Pennsylvania in the fall. And a win in Pennsylvania will give us the White House.”
It’s a delicate dance that Romney must perform. Thanks to his string of primary victories, his extremely large lead in delegates and a slew of big-name GOP endorsements recently, Romney is considered by many to be the inevitable nominee.
While he’s more than halfway there, Romney still has got a long way to go to win the 1, 144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. And as of now Santorum doesn’t sound like he’s ready to give up his bid for the White House.
“We have to win here and we plan on winning here,” Santorum said Thursday while campaigning in Pennsylvania. “Then we’re going to get into May. May looks very, very good.”
Santorum’s outlook is accurate. Most of the states holding primaries in May are more conservative than those in April and could provide Santorum with some victories if he lasts that long.
But at this point, it’s not about winning contests — it’s about winning the nomination, and Romney has a nearly insurmountable lead.
Four years ago, in a much closer race, Hillary Clinton won five of the last eight primaries against Obama, but in the end, Obama captured the Democratic presidential nomination.
Pennsylvania is one of five states holding primaries April 24. The other four — New York, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island — most likely favor Romney. And even in Pennsylvania, Santorum’s once double-digit lead has disappeared, according to the most recent surveys, which indicate the candidate now holds only a single-digit advantage over Romney.