Five state primaries offer little drama as Republican race winds down
What promised to be a political fight to the death deflated on April 10 when Rick Santorum suspended his presidential campaign, leaving Mitt Romney facing the few remaining primaries with a hefty delegate lead and challengers Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul fading in the distance.
The Republican primary is continuing, however, as voters in five states go to the polls today. More than 230 delegates are up for grabs in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
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Although Romney is expected to sweep the five primaries, the headlines for the day don't center on the presumptive nominee. Instead, all eyes are on Newt Gingrich and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Gingrich, in an interview with NBC News on Monday, said he expected to "reassess" his campaign depending on the outcome of the Delaware vote, where 17 delegates are at stake in a winner-take-all scenario.
Campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond said three scenarios in the Tuesday vote will help decide Gingrich's future.
A big win in Delaware could spur new interest in Gingrich and his campaign.
A close second in Delaware and reasonable showings elsewhere could keep Gingrich fighting into the North Carolina race on May 8.
A big defeat in all 5 states could lead Gingrich to reevaluate his campaign.
Romney currently has 698 delegates, while Gingrich has 137. An additional 1,115 delegates are still needed to win the nomination.
"We don't think that Romney is closing the deal with conservatives," Hammond told the Wall Street Journal. "But Newt is very realistic. He doesn't wake up every day in some land of denial. He is very grounded."
"Gov. Romney is clearly the frontrunner but that doesn't mean he is inevitable," Gingrich said in Delaware Monday. "It is very dangerous for frontrunners to start behaving like they are inevitable because the voters might decide that's not so true."
According to Matthew Payne of the Wall Street Journal, a Republican National Committee rule means that Gingrich needs to win the plurality of delegates from at least five states to be considered on the convention's first ballot in August. Gingrich would need to win three more states in order to make that happen.
Florida's Rubio, who has been floated as a possible vice presidential pick for Mitt Romney, joined Romney on the campaign circuit this week, raising his profile and drawing more VP chatter.
In recent weeks, Rubio's spot as a top vice presidential pick has been overshadowed by other possible candidates in the 2012 veepstakes, such as Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. However, his presence on the campaign trail has put him back in the spotlight.
Rubio previously said he would say no if Romney asked him to join the ticket, telling National Journal, "I don't want to be the vice president right now, or maybe ever. I really want to do a good job in the Senate."
However, a few days later on CNN's State of the Union, Rubio said, "The last thing (Romney) needs are those of us in the peanut gallery to be saying what we would or would not do."
Rubio will also deliver what his staff called a "major speech on the future of U.S. foreign policy" at The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., this week. CNN's political blog called this "another high-profile move for the junior senator."
Rubio is also working to put together a GOP DREAM Act alternative proposal that would allow young undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. to work or study. Fox News reports that Romney hasn't come out in support of the measure yet, but that his campaign would "study the issue."
As the polls close this evening, Romney will appear in New Hampshire, returning to the state where he started his presidential campaign for a speech titled, "A Better America Begins Tonight." The Associated Press reports the speech will signal a pivot away from the primary contest and toward President Barack Obama.
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