A GOP sigh of relief

Mitt Romney took a huge step toward capturing the Republican presidential nomination by easily winning the New Hampshire primary Tuesday.

At least for one night, Romney and his team celebrated the big triumph. And so did many congressional Republicans.

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Romney is the choice of the Republican establishment in the nation’s capital, with 63 lawmaker endorsements, compared to just 26 for the rest of the GOP field combined.

But endorsements don’t win presidential races, as Romney found out when he had the most support from Capitol Hill Republicans in 2008. 

But with his back-to-back wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, Romney is now the favorite to win South Carolina. A win there could end the race, for all practical purposes. 

He certainly should not get cocky. A month ago, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) was leading by double digits in three out of the four early states. Gingrich’s surge worried Republican lawmakers, most notably Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (R-Ariz.).

The Hill reported last month that McCain was poised to endorse Romney, believing that a Gingrich nomination would hurt the party. McCain opted to go public with his backing the day after Iowa, timing it perfectly for Romney’s next contest in New Hampshire.

McCain’s backing helped Romney in the Granite State, where the 2008 presidential nominee is highly regarded. 

The concern from GOP kingmakers about Gingrich and other Republican presidential contenders is that they could hurt House and Senate members down ballot.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who has one congressional endorsement — Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) — rejects the notion that picking a “moderate” is the best way to defeat President Obama.

But Republican members of Congress do not agree.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerJohn Feehery: A political forest fire Trump's pick for Federal Reserve chief is right choice at right time The two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery MORE (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) have not, and will not, endorse in the GOP primary. 

But that hasn’t stopped BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerJohn Feehery: A political forest fire Trump's pick for Federal Reserve chief is right choice at right time The two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery MORE’s and McConnell’s lieutenants in leadership; Romney is the pick of Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersOvernight Finance: Trump calls for ObamaCare mandate repeal, cuts to top tax rate | Trump to visit Capitol Hill in tax reform push | CBO can't do full score before vote | Bipartisan Senate bill would ease Dodd-Frank rules Overnight Regulation: Bipartisan Senate bill would curb Dodd-Frank rules | Opioid testing rule for transport workers finalized | Google faces state antitrust probe | Dems want investigation into FCC chief Trump to visit Capitol Hill amid tax-reform push MORE (R-Wash.) and Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Dems push for more money for opioid fight MORE (R-S.D.) and Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntDems push for more money for opioid fight Trump asked Senate Republicans to end Russia election interference investigation: report An overlooked solution to the opioid epidemic MORE (R-Mo.). 

Romney has repeatedly said “Washington is broken,” so he hasn’t been touting his support from leaders in the nation’s capital. But collecting the support of lawmakers, especially high-profile members, is important. 

The front-runner candidate has work to do before receiving official endorsements from Boehner and McConnell. Those announcements won’t come before Romney has the nomination clearly in hand. But it’s safe to say that the Speaker, who wants to remain Speaker, and the minority leader, who wants to become majority leader in 2013, are pleased with Romney’s win in New Hampshire.