Romney’s Big Night
Is he starting to pull away from his rivals?

Mitt Romney and his wife Ann celebrate victory in Illinois, March 20, 2012.


It’s not quite over . . . but it’s effectively over.

Those of us who haven’t run for office can only imagine the strain, stress, irritation, and heartbreak of a campaign that doesn’t quite get it done down the stretch. It’s easy for outsiders to argue that a particular contender should drop out; we haven’t devoted years of our lives — our entire careers, arguably — to working towards one goal, only to find it unattainable after some too-fleeting moments of glory.

With that sympathy in mind: It’s hard to see what Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum are accomplishing by remaining in the race at this point. Ron Paul was supposed to ride caucuses to dark-horse status, and he’s garnered about 70 delegates so far. Newt Gingrich has won two states, is apparently out of funds, and spent the weekend admiring the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin in Washington instead of campaigning in Illinois.

Rick Santorum has defied all expectations, but he’s still down considerably (124 delegates, under his debatable assertion of the count), and the past few weeks have shown limited appeal: If he’s the candidate of the working-class Rust Belt, why has he lost Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois? If he’s the preeminent anti-Romney candidate, why would he evenly split Gingrich’s supporters if the former speaker dropped out of the race?

Worse, Santorum and his campaign have responded in recent weeks with a litany of complaints: Fox News is biased against him. Everyone from the Associated Press to the Republican National Committee is counting the delegates incorrectly. Romney’s getting an extra delegate out of Michigan is comparable to the crimes of the Iranian regime. Romney and Ron Paul have a backroom deal. Yes, yes, Senator, it’s everyone’s fault except yours.

These guys can keep running, but . . . the final result isn’t likely to change much.

— Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot blog on National Review Online.

A presidential race got off the ground last night in the land of Lincoln. If Mitt Romney goes on to win the White House, Illinois will be remembered as the place Mitt found his voice — not to mention coming up with nearly half the delegates needed to cinch the nomination.

In a victory speech that came closer to a stem-winder than any previous Romney speech, the former Massachusetts governor hit the theme of freedom, speaking of “free markets and free people” and noting that the American economy “runs on freedom.”

“Our economic freedom will be on the ballot,” Romney said, finally moving beyond saying elect-me-because-I-am-a-technocrat-who-can-fix-things. He showed that he really does know what is at stake in this election. Of course, he had had a great moment earlier. “If you’re looking for free stuff . . . vote for the other guy,” he told a student who wanted free contraceptives.

There was a horrible moment when it appeared that Romney, who did stumble over words several times, was bumbling towards one of his class-conscious goofs. It was when he recalled that his father hadn’t been to college (no, Mitt, no!). But Romney quickly righted himself and got to his theme for the evening: freedom, the issue that will define the presidential campaign.

Rick Santorum, who came in far behind Romney, courageously — and not surprisingly — took credit for Romney’s freedom theme. Santorum seemed tired. One sentence caught my attention: He said he would “pull up government by its roots.” In a way, Santorum’s radicalism is the mirror image of that of the current occupant of the White House. Santorum kept talking about how the country was “birthed” by the struggles of the 1860s. But it was Romney’s campaign that was birthed last night.

— Charlotte Hays is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.