Mitt Romney sweeps primaries, yet endless GOP race goes on

Mitt Romney had a very good night last night. As anticipated, the Republican presidential nominee absolutely dominated the primary elections, sweeping Maryland, Washington DC and Wisconsin. The latter was the only state where someone, Rick Santorum, came remotely close to striking distance: there was a 5 point difference between Romney’s 43% of the vote there and Santorum’s 38%. Romney’s lead was far more commanding in Maryland (20 points over Santorum 49% to 29%) and DC, where Santorum wasn’t even on the ballot (70% of the vote for Romney; the next most popular candidate was Ron Paul, who managed 12%).

Of course Romney celebrated big in his victory speech, telling the crowd “We won them all! This really has been quite a night. We won a great victory tonight in our campaign to restore the promise of America.” Most of his speech centered on President Obama, rather than his supposed rivals.

Most rational observers agree that though Romney is still far off from the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination, the former Massachusetts governor basically has it in the bag. In fact, the New Yorker’s political team crunched the numbers and there is essentially no way strongest competitor Santorum can gather enough momentum to challenge the presumptive nominee.

Santorum doesn’t seem to think so: he told supporters in Pennsylvania, which he represented in the Senate for 12 years, that he’ll keep fighting until they have their primaries on April 24th, because last night’s vote was only “half-time.” “Half the delegates in this process have been selected. And who’s ready to charge out of the locker room in Pennsylvania for a strong second half?”

He also revived the already dated Etch-A-Sketch hit, telling the steel-centric state, “The people of this country have stood up and followed because they’ve seen someone who has a clear positive vision. Someone whose convictions are also forged in steel, not on an Etch-A-Sketch.”

Meanwhile, Politico reports that Santorum spokeswoman Alice Stewart suggested they’ll go on until May 29th, when Texas holds its vote. “He’s expecting to do well in his home state, but mark my word, Wolf, Texas will be a critical state in this primary process. Keep an eye on Texas, that’s going to be important,” she said. Oh, great, another two months of this stuff? That’s way longer than the previous GOP primary.

Back in 2008, John McCain wrapped up the GOP nomination by March 4, the date his strongest rival, Mike Huckabee, dropped out. Ron Paul stuck around because he’s rascally and also because he wanted to keep leading the libertarian charge. He finally dropped out on June 12, but that was just a formality at that point. He’ll probably pull a similar stunt this year. It also seems likely that Newt Gingrich will soon face the music and drop out his bid. If he wants to have any political dignity left, that is. But of course that still leaves Santorum. If he fights until April 24th, this race will go on for 51 more days. If he goes until Texas, that’s another 35 days for a total of 86 more days of primary campaigning than four years ago.

Sorry, I wish I had better news. But at least you can take solace in the fact that the easily ignored Democratic primary is over: President Obama has officially garnered the 2,778 delegates to win his party’s nomination. A small victory, but worth celebrating, anyway.