The Nightmare Scenario

"We won without winning!" So said longshot candidate George Wallace after taking a surprising 34 percent of the vote in the 1964 Wisconsin primary, but it might as well be a prediction of how Rick Santorum will try to frame today's primaries. Mitt Romney is comfortably ahead in Maryland and the District of Columbia (where Santorum isn't even on the ballot), and the front-runner is currently ahead 7.5 percent in Real Clear Politics' average of the polls in Wisconsin. Nate Silver predicts that Santorum will copy Wallace's low-thirties haul, but Rick has passed the point of the primary where he can convincingly claim that as a win. Unless Santorum wins in Wisconsin, it's a big lose for him and a big win for the party elite, which is eager to put a bow on the Romney nomination. 

If Santorum did manage to squeak out a surprise victory in the Badger State, it would be a big headache for the Grand Old Party, a bigger headache than any of the former senator's previous insubordinate victories. Romney got a healthy dose of momentum in March with his sweep of all-star endorsements and big primary victories, and a loss after that isn't a game changer, but he doesn't need the bad optics and groans that would follow. Unfortunately for him—and the whole antsy Republican Party—is the nightmare scenario of the primary trudging on is likely to occur regardless of tonight’s math. Santorum has said that he’s staying in until his home state’s primary on April 24, which means one more month of Republican infighting and one month less of focusing on November. Tonight won’t be a night of Santorum winning without winning, but his campaign makes it hard for Romney to win even when he does.

 

So They Say

"It’s nothing but thinly veiled Social Darwinism. It’s antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who’s willing to work for it—a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class."

President Obama, speaking about Paul Ryan's budget plan today

Daily Meme: The Battle of the Budgets

  • In a speech to the Associated Press today, President Obama was feistier than usual. He signaled that his campaign will likely focus on budgetary issues. 
  • Ezra Klein argues that Paul Ryan was the target of the attack.
  • The speech also recounted the greatest hits of the GOP campaign season.
  • The president is putting himself forth as the "moderate Republican in this presidential race," writes Molly Ball at The Atlantic.
  • Greg Sargent outlines three objectives of today's speech, including the president's framing of fiscal sacrifice as something the wealthy must undertake. 
  • The Fox spin on the speech is that Obama is "running from his record and blaming Republicans."

 

What We're Writing

  • Patrick Caldwell lays out Romney's vice-presidential pick options.
  • Yannis Palaiologos writes about the other big presidential election.

 

What We're Reading

  • Does this really bad novel from 1912 explain the Obama presidency?
  • The best of the Newt Gingrich political obituaries.
  • The top 12 Mitt Romney Twitter pictures.
  • Negative ads don't make-or-break an election.
  • Five counties to keep an eye on tonight.
  • Romney planning to start joint fundraising with the RNC.
  • Pro-Obama super PAC spending almost $300,000 on swing-state ads.
  • Dave Weigel explains why he voted for Jon Huntsman today. 
  • Ryan Lizza and Josh Putnam crunch the numbers, and predict Romney will be 22 delegates short of 1,144 when June 26 comes.

Poll of the Day

Rick Santorum leads Romney by six points  (41-35) in his home state of Pennslyvania according to a new Quinnipiac poll, with 37 percent saying they could still change their mind.

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