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Romney Picks Up More Delegates In GOP Race


Joining us for some analysis of last night's results and a look at the presidential contest ahead is NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Clearly another good night for Mitt Romney, especially when it came to the delegate count. What exactly has he won?

LIASSON: Well, I think this is more than the turning point for Romney. I think he really gets to say very convincingly to the Republican Party that this race is effectively over. He picked up 16 delegates in Washington, D.C., where Santorum wasn't even on the ballot. He got most of the 37 delegates in Maryland, and about three-quarters of the 42 delegates at stake in Wisconsin. So he lengthened his overall delegate lead over Santorum, which was already at a two-to-one ratio.

MONTAGNE: And Rick Santorum has said he will not quit, that May will be a better month for him, he'll come back and prove Romney's not strong enough to be the nominee. Any chance the party elders will talk him out of that vow?

LIASSON: Well, it's hard to see that happening now, but Santorum needs more than 70 percent of the delegates that remain, and that's just not mathematically possible. Now, he has talked about his home state of Pennsylvania as being a do or die race, just like his supporters were saying in David Welna's piece. I think that it's possible that if he loses Pennsylvania, maybe he would get out of the race. Even if he wins Pennsylvania, he probably wouldn't get more than half of the delegates there.

And don't forget, on that same day Republicans in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware vote, and those are all great states for Mitt Romney.

MONTAGNE: Well, why does Rick Santorum keep on running? I mean, can he keep winning in a way that matters?

LIASSON: Well, not that matters in getting the 1,144 delegates that you need for the nomination or stopping Romney from getting there. He could win in Arkansas and Kentucky. He could win in Texas. But then again, there's California and New Jersey coming up and those are Romney-friendly states. He might think that he can run his way onto the ticket.

Or maybe he'll do what Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are doing, which is staying in the race officially, but not really contesting the primaries very seriously.

MONTAGNE: So Mitt Romney, as we heard last night, is now very much focused on the fall election. That is to say, he has pretty well swung around to seeing his opponent as the president. What about that?

LIASSON: Well, I think you're right. I don't think that he's going to be spending much time talking about the other Republicans in the race. He barely mentions them as it is. As Ari Shapiro just said, he's going to be here in Washington today talking to newspaper editors, the same ones that President Obama talked to yesterday, where he mentioned Romney by name. I think you'll hear the same kind of counter-attack by Romney against the president.

So the fall campaign really has begun. You heard the president talking about Republicans and Romney as social Darwinists. You heard Romney last night talking about the president as out of touch, wanting a government-centered society.

I think that the White House certainly hopes that some of the negative impressions from the primary about Romney are indelible, but it's possible that Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's top aid, had a point when he made that Etch-a-sketch comment.

You know, winners of hard-fought primary battles do get a shave and a haircut, they get a fresh look. There are lots of voters who haven't been paying tremendous attention to the race.

And you're also hearing Romney change the tone of his remarks on immigration, on contraception. He clearly is starting the traditional move to the center, trying to repair the damage that the primary race has done for him with Hispanics and women. So the general election is underway.

MONTAGNE: So just one last thought. The whole question of a convention fight, or a decision made at the convention, what do you think? Where does that stand now?

LIASSON: I think that's not in cards. I think the convention will be what it normally is, which is a four-day infomercial for the nominee, and I don't see how Rick Santorum gets the delegates that will allow him to mount that kind of contest on the convention floor against Romney.

MONTAGNE: Mara, thanks very much.

LIASSON: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.