Former Senator Rick Santorum has indicated that he’ll stay in the presidential race at least until the Pennsylvania primary later this month, but tonight could be the de facto end of his candidacy. Early returns from Maryland show Mitt Romney above 50 percent of the vote and Santorum below 30 percent. Wisconsin should be a closer contest, but recent opinion polls indicate that Romney is the likely winner.
President Barack Obama targeted Romney by name in a speech to Associated Press writers and editors today. Click here for the full transcript.
I’ll update this post later with more results from Maryland and Wisconsin. Any comments about the presidential campaign are welcome in this thread.
UPDATE: Santorum conceded early, speaking on television less than a half-hour after Wisconsin polls closed. I’m surprised, because unofficial results indicate that Romney didn’t win by much there: 42 percent for the front-runner, 38 percent for Santorum, 12 percent for Ron Paul, and 6 percent for Newt Gingrich. Maryland was a blowout, as expected: 49 percent for Romney, 29 percent for Santorum, 11 percent for Gingrich, 10 percent for Paul. Romney received 70 percent of the vote among roughly 4,000 Republicans who voted in Washington, DC. Santorum wasn’t on the ballot there. Paul received 12 percent and Gingrich 11 percent.
Excerpts from last night’s speeches by Santorum and Romney are after the jump.
“The clock starts tonight,” Santorum said to supporters in Pennsylvania. “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?”
Speaking on familiar turf, the former two-term senator from the Keystone State urged supporters to dismiss attacks from his opponents ahead of Pennsylvania’s primary later in April.
“You know me. You know how hard I work,” Santorum said. “They’ll say all the things, that I’m someone who doesn’t stand up for what I believe in. You know me.” […]
In an interview on Monday on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight,” Santorum acknowledged that “April would be a very tough month for us,” but he intends to compete through May and onto the convention.
“May is rich with delegates and are strong states for us — states like Texas and Arkansas and Kentucky and Indiana, West Virginia, North Carolina. Those are the states that we know we can get this back, right back to where it is right now, which is a lot closer than what Mitt Romney and the pundits are spinning,” he said.
Unfortunately for Santorum, it’s way past halftime in the race for the GOP nomination. My guess is that Romney will win the Pennsylvania primary, thanks to strength in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Romney sounded extremely confident last night and focused his speech on President Obama.
You know, we all know that President Obama cannot run on his record. We know that he can’t run on his broken promises. And after the 2010 election, when the voters told him to go a different direction, to change course, did he moderate? Did he do that? No. He doubled down on his partisan agenda. So, if he can’t run on his record and if he won’t change course, then what does he have left? You know, we found out today he is going to try to divide us in order to distract us.
You know, I seem to remember him saying that he was going to be a uniter, not a divider. Frankly I think this is one of the worst of his broken promises. We don’t need a campaigner in chief. We need a commander in chief. We need a leader that America deserves. […]
This campaign is going to deal with many complicated issues. But there is a basic choice that we’re going to face. The president has pledged to transform America. And he’s spent the last four years laying the foundation for a new government-centered society. I will spend the next four years rebuilding the foundation of a opportunity society led by free people and free enterprises.
(APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: And you know, the different visions we have I think are a product of the different lives we’ve led, the life experiences, the values we have. When he was a community organizer and communities were hurt by plant closings, his reaction was to turn to the government for help. He saw free enterprise as the villain and government as the solution.
He never seemed to grasp the very basic point that a plant closes when a business loses money. So today, when the president attacks business, and when his policies make it more difficult for business to grow and prosper, he’s also attacking the very communities he had wanted to help. Or at least that’s how it works when America is working.
But under Barack Obama, America hasn’t been working. The ironic tragedy is that the community organizer who wanted to help those that were hurt by a plant closing became the president on whose watch more jobs have been lost any time since the Great Depression.
In Barack Obama’s government-centered society, the government has to do more because the economy is doomed to do less, because when you attack business and you vilify success, you are going to have less business and less success.
And then, of course, the debate becomes about how much to extend unemployment insurance because you’ve guaranteed there will be millions more unemployed. In Barack Obama’s government-centered society, tax increases not only become a necessity, but also a desired tool for social justice.
In that world of shrinking means, there is a finite amount of money. And as someone once famously said, you need to have some taxes to spread the wealth around.
ROMNEY: In Barack Obama’s government-centered society, government spending always increases because, well, why not? There’s always someone who’s entitled to something more and who’s willing to vote for anyone who will give them something more.
Now, by the way, we know where that kind of — you know, that transformation of a — of a free society into a government-centered society leads, because there are other nations that have followed that path. And it leads to chronic high unemployment, crushing debt and stagnant wages. This is beginning to sound familiar, isn’t it?
I don’t want to transform America. I want to restore to America the economic values of freedom and opportunity and limited government that has made us the powerhouse of the world.