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Election Notes: The Beginning of the End

After Mitt Romney’s 12-point win in Illinois, it’s difficult to see how anyone else could win the Republican nomination. His lead in the delegate count over Rick Santorum has expanded to 300 (although the Santorum campaign argues hopefully that his count will be a little higher than most think). Newt Gingrich—who came in fourth in Illinois, with just 8% of the vote—is almost 430 delegates behind and millions of dollars in debt. As Nate Silver says, Romney has won 56% of the available delegates of far, and needs to win just 46% the rest of the way to ensure himself of a majority before the convention. With the victory came a key endorsement by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, a sign that the Republican establishment is beginning to come together behind Romney.

Romney will win the nomination, but the race will go on. As Ronald Brownstein says, the fundamental dynamic remains the same. Conservative and evangelical Republicans clearly prefer Santorum or Gingrich, which is why Santorum will probably win the Louisiana primary handily this weekend. It doesn’t help that Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom seemed to tell CNN that Romney would “hit a reset button” on the conservative positions he has taken when the fall campaign started, comparing the campaign "an Etch A Sketch.” Romney denied that his adviser was talking about his political positions, even though that’s clearly what the interviewer was asking about. The Santorum campaign immediately issued a press release saying Romney is not “a man of principle.”

Political Futures Markets

Chance President Obama will win reelection: 59.6% (Intrade)

Chance Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination: 92.1% (Intrade)

Chance that Republicans will win control of the Senate: 58.7% (Intrade)

Chance that Republicans will maintain control of the House: 69.8% (Intrade)

Polls

President Obama’s approval rating: 47.5% (Pollster)

Mitt Romney’s favorable rating: 33.6% (Pollster)

Republican advantage on a generic congressional ballot: 0.2% (Real Clear Politics)

Comment

“The knock on Romney since Day One has been that he’s a shallow, unprincipled politician, willing to say anything to anyone to win. “Etch A Sketch” is so perfect a metaphor, it’s extraordinary that it came from the campaign’s own communication director.”—Steve Benen

UP NEXT: the Louisiana primary on Saturday, March 24

Mitt Romney image from Gage Skidmore

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