Romney sweeps primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland, D.C.
Romney’s trio of wins Tuesday night show that he’s the odds on favorite to win the GOP nomination. (Flickr: NewsHour)
MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Mitt Romney on Tuesday romped to a triumph in Wisconsin’s Republican presidential primary, putting him in prime position to clinch his party’s nod in the coming weeks.
ABC News projected Romney as the winner in the Badger State shortly after the polls closed here Tuesday night. The former Massachusetts governor won in Maryland and the District of Columbia too, giving him a clean sweep of the night’s contests.
“We won ‘em all!” Romney exclaimed at his victory rally in Wisconsin. “We won a great victory tonight in our promise to restore America.”
Just as he did in Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan, Romney overtook his chief rival Rick Santorum in the polls in the weeks leading up to the primary by burying his top opponent in an avalanche of ads on the airwaves and organizational might around the state.
Romney’s wins handed him enough delegates to push him past the halfway mark to the 1,144 needed to clinch the GOP presidential nomination, in addition, it underscores the narrative that he is his party’s eventual nominee.
After trailing Santorum as recently as last month, Romney took the Badger State by storm in recent days, securing the endorsement of the state’s leading Republican congressman Paul Ryan, and holding a string of events in the urban areas around Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay. While Romney has firmly seized the momentum in the GOP race, Santorum has been left reeling by a string of losses, causing many in the party to call on him to drop out.
On Primary Day, Romney was helped by the fact that a majority of voters said electability or “the right experience” were the chief attributes they wanted in a candidate — two areas where to date Romney has enjoyed an advantage over Santorum.
Making matters worse for Santorum, fewer than four in 10 voters in the state described themselves as evangelicals, a voting bloc that has largely sided with the former Pennsylvania senator in the primary season thus far. Romney even won evangelicals in Wisconsin.
In the build-up to the Badger State, Wisconsin was seen as one of the last - if not, the last - places where Santorum could spring a surprise over Romney and make the GOP nominating fight a real race once more. Instead, another opening has slipped away — and Romney more than ever is poised to close out the race in the coming weeks.
Appearing in his home state of Pennsylvania, however, Santorum pledged to remain in the race.
“Who’s ready to charge out of the locker room in Pennsylvania for a strong second half?” he told supporters Tuesday night.
Voting in the primary will resume in three weeks’ time, with five states heading to the polls on April 24: New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Pennsylvania, Santorum’s home state. Santorum last Sunday acknowledged that he has to win in Pennsylvania - a new Quinnipiac University poll out this week showed him up by six points over Romney - but as we have seen time and time again this year, the Romney campaign knows how to finish strong when they need to.
But next time, Romney may not only be finishing off Santorum’s chances in a key state, but his chances of remaining in the race at all.
Matthew Jaffe is covering the 2012 campaign for ABC News & Univision.