Primary gleanings

    Stuff we can limn from the latest Republican primary night:1. Mitt Romney’s five-state sweep prompts the question that is surely on the lips of all Americans this morning. That, of course, would be, “Why doesn’t Rick Santorum endorse him already?”Now, now. Let’s give Rick a little more time. For starters, he has to lick his wounds and come to grips with the realization that God didn’t want him to win after all. I say this only because it was the Santorums who originally invoked divine intervention; when Rick was riding high back in February, wife Karen said, “I personally think this is God’s will. I think He has us on a path.” Anyway, it turned out to be a loser’s path, a path strewn with nearly $1 million in unpaid campaign bills, and Rick probably won’t do an endorsement deal with Mitt unless or until Mitt agrees to help Rick pay off those bills.That’s for starters. The big-ticket item will be Rick’s demand that Mitt demonstrate respect for the Santorum conservative agenda. That might be a trickier sell, because Mitt is now hard at work playing Etch a Sketch, oh so carefully seeking to erase the red meat from his campaign menu, the fare he was compelled to serve up to the rabid right during the heat of primary battle.Santorum spent much of his campaign banging away at Obamacare and its perceived threat to Freedom; as a Romney surrogate, he’d like to keep banging away. But we have to wonder whether Romney would accede to that. Romney knows that if he tries to highlight Obamacare during the general election, Team Obama will remind everyone that health reform was essentially birthed in Mitt’s Massachusetts. It was noteworthy last night that Romney, in a speech billed as a preview of general election themes, omitted all mention of Obamacare.So if Mitt and Rick meet as scheduled on May 4, it’s going to be a delicate dance. Mitt does need Rick’s validation, to some extent, because the presumptive nominee is still weak among social and religious conservatives. And Rick does have some leverage, because, after all, he did win 11 states and more than three million votes. At the same time, Mitt can’t afford to bond too closely with his vanquished foe because that would risk turning off the independent swing voters who find Rick to be unpalatable. Mitt is in the midst of his attempted pivot to the center (“pivot” is already the most overused word this week), and he wouldn’t want Rick to mess with his footwork.By the way, Santorum was probably wise to quit the race before his home state went to the polls. Given the fact that he lost to Romney last night by a whopping 40 percentage points, it’s quite clear that if he had stayed on the stump, Pennsylvania would have delivered his second major humiliation in six years, by a margin similar to the 18-point whipping he took as a Senate incumbent in ’06. God apparently works in mysterious ways.2. Meanwhile, the Delaware primary should hereby be renamed the “Yo Newt, Read Our Lips, Please Buzz Off” primary.Remember Newt Gingrich? The orotund bloviator who peaked in South Carolina three months ago? The guy who persists in hanging around much the way Japanese bitter-end soldiers kept fighting long after their nation surrendered in ’45? The reality-denier who keeps soaking up taxpayer money for Secret Service protection?Long after you quit paying him any attention, he was stumping in Delaware, hoping to score an upset win in a contest that was open only to registered Republicans. Basically, he wanted to replicate Christine O’Donnell, the credential-challenged conservative who won the GOP Senate primary two years ago with the votes of ticked-off conservatives.Think about that for a moment. Newt Gingrich, who views himself as a seminal historic figure, was hoping to follow in the footsteps of a woman who had to deny she was a witch.Anyway, it didn’t work. Newt wound up last night with only 27 percent of the vote. He had clearly sensed that this might happen, because in recent days he signaled that he might have to “reassess” his candidacy in the wake of a Delaware loss.So is he reassessing? Nope. Republican strategist Rich Galen, an ex-Newt aide, writes on his blog this morning, “In that strange world which is inside Gingrich’s head, he is continuing to campaign in North Carolina (primary May 8) saying, ‘We have a lot of support here in North Carolina and we’re going to be talking to a lot of folks about where we are realistically.'”And therefore, as Galen noted, “we will continue to pay for Secret Service protection for a candidate who is only a candidate because he still has Secret Service protection.”It appears that greatness has a price tag. Or something like that. Unless he agrees to turn back into a pumpkin, as sources now insist he will. 3. And, hey, does Mitt galvanize the masses or what? Consider this apples-to-apples comparison: In the meaningless 2012 Pennsylvania primary, he drew 463,960 voters (out of 799,804 cast). Four years ago, in the meaningless 2008 Pennsylvania primary, winner John McCain drew 594,061 voters (out of 815,364 cast). Yes, folks, John McCain in the midst of a bad Republican year pulled in 28 percent more Pennsylvania votes than Mitt Romney did in this supposedly promising Republican year.Pennsylvania is commonly ranked as a swing state, but the tepid turnout for Romney last night (and the tepid overall turnout, vis a vis ’08) may serve to remind us that no Republican presidential candidate has won the state since 1988. The burden is squarely on him to demonstrate that he can reverse the pattern.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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