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Snap Analysis: Santorum exit boosts Romney's chances against Obama
April 10, 2012 / 8:28 PM / 5 years ago

Snap Analysis: Santorum exit boosts Romney's chances against Obama

U.S. conservative presidential candidate Rick Santorum announces he is suspending his bid to win the Republican nomination during a news conference in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania April 10, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Makela

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rick Santorum’s exit from the race for the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday was good news for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who now will have an easy path to the November 6 election against Democratic President Barack Obama.

Here’s what Santorum’s departure means for Romney and the U.S. presidential race in the weeks to come:

- Santorum’s decision immediately improves Romney’s prospects in the matchup against Obama. Romney held a prohibitive lead in the race for the Republican nomination, but Santorum’s continued presence would have forced Romney to shore up his right flank rather than reach out to the centrist, independent voters who will decide the election. A prolonged primary fight would have drained Romney’s campaign war chest and drawn out divisions between the party’s establishment and its grassroots conservatives. At worst, Romney could have faced embarrassing defeats in southern states such as Arkansas that hold their primary contests in May.

- Romney’s remaining Republican rivals pose a negligible threat. Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich has vowed to stay in the race until the party’s convention in Tampa in late August, but he has not won a primary contest since he carried his home state of Georgia on March 6. On Sunday, Gingrich said that he would work to elect Romney this fall if he is the nominee. U.S. Representative Ron Paul has been unable to translate his fervent grassroots following into any primary victories so far and is more focused on spreading his libertarian message than winning votes.

-- Romney will have to reach out to women, Hispanics and other voters who have been turned off by the bitter, months-long Republican campaign, which has forced him to take stands on hot-button issues like immigration and birth control that could haunt him in the November election. A Washington Post/ABC poll released on Tuesday found Obama leading Romney by 51 percent to 43 percent in a head-to-head matchup.

-- Romney’s march to the nomination has been boosted by allies in the Restore Our Future “Super PAC” who have spent roughly $39.6 million on negative television advertising aimed largely at his Republican rivals. Voters should expect attack ads aimed at Obama to pop up on their TV screens soon, especially in the dozen or so battleground states that will be particularly crucial in November.

-- Santorum’s exit allows Romney to focus on his core economic message. Obama could be vulnerable here: The Washington Post/ABC poll found that voters see Romney as better at handling the economy and reducing the federal budget deficit.

-- Obama’s campaign team slammed Romney on Tuesday for not paying his “fair share” of taxes in an effort to paint the wealthy former private equity executive as out of touch with ordinary Americans. But the effort could backfire: a Monday poll by the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way found that independent voters in battleground states are not moved by Obama’s fairness argument and would rather reduce business regulations than narrow income inequality.

-- Romney still will not officially secure the Republican presidential nomination for several weeks. CNN estimates he has amassed 651 delegates so far, short of the 1,144 needed to clinch the nomination. He may not reach that goal until early June, but the Republican nominating race is effectively over at this point.

Editing by David Lindsey and Jackie Frank

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