With the Republican primaries more than half over, the end is in sight. Mitt Romney has firmly established himself as the front-runner, amassing a commanding delegate lead. According to the Associated Press, Romney has 660 delegates to Rick Santorum's 281. Despite Romney's appearance of inevitability (amid claims the race is closer than that), Santorum vows to continue, even as party leaders increasingly believe the race is over. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have all but disappeared.
The primaries are not over until June, when Utah holds the final contest. Between now and then, a lot of votes are set to be cast.
The race might end here. A total of 231 delegates are up for grabs in five northeastern states, including New York (95) and Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania (72). Romney is expected to do well in all five. A Public Policy Polling poll gave Romney a five-point lead over his rival in Pennsylvania. Other polls have Santorum ahead. But if Romney wins most of the delegates in these contests, expect the calls for the other three candidates to drop out to become deafening.
Over 120 more delegates are at stake in Indiana, West Virginia and North Carolina, all where Santorum hopes to do well. He has a slight lead in Indiana (1 percent over Romney, according to Real Clear Politics) but trails in a High Point poll of North Carolina. If Santorum is still in the race, if he fails to do well in strongly conservative-leaning states like these, he'll have no argument to remain in the race.
The two contests could easily split one for each of the two leading candidates: Nebraska for Santorum and Oregon for Romney. Santorum has the lead in Nebraska in the latest PPP poll.
Arkansas and Kentucky hold contests. They are the last chance for Santorum to grab momentum before the all important contests about to come.
Texas originally scheduled its primary on Super Tuesday, but a court fight over redistricting forced it to be rescheduled. The largest Southern state has 155 delegates to the Republican National Convention. Although this is Paul's home state, his chances of winning a large number of delegates here is poor. Especially if Romney is anointed as the "inevitable winner" beforehand.
Five of the last six states vote on this day. California, with 172 delegates, has more than the other four (Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota) combined. At this point, the GOP candidate should be officially decided, if it wasn't the week before in Texas. A recent SurveyUSA poll found Romney with a commanding 21-point lead over Santorum.
Utah rounds out the schedule, with the last 40 delegates. If Romney has passed 1144 delegates by this point, Utah, the home of the Mormon religion, would make a nice victory lap for Romney.
- Mitt Romney
- Rick Santorum