Romney camp says GOP rivals helping Obama, pushes them to exit race

Mitt Romney said Wednesday his Republican opponents are helping President Obama win reelection by staying in the primary fight, making his most public call for them to exit the contest.

In a memo, the Romney team emphasized its lead in the delegate count and accused rivals of ignoring political reality.

As Gov. Romney’s opponents attempt to ignore the basic principles of math, the only person’s odds of winning they are increasing are President Obama’s, Romney campaign political director Rich Beeson wrote.

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It’s the first time Romney’s campaign has publicly acknowledged that the long nominating contest is hurting his general-election chances.

But Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, who both had victories on Super Tuesday, seem likely to ignore the calls to abandon the race, at least for now.

While Romney won Ohio, Virginia, Vermont, Idaho, Alaska and Massachusetts on Tuesday, Santorum took Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota and Gingrich won his home state of Georgia.

Both also think the next round of states to vote include unfavorable ground for Romney, who is seen as a possible underdog in Kansas on Saturday, and Mississippi and Alabama on Tuesday. Romney is positioned to do well in Hawaii’s caucuses, also on Tuesday.

Romney has longed for a knockout punch in the contest, but it has not been forthcoming. With Super Tuesday gone, Wednesday’s memo suggests Romney knows he is now more likely to win on points.

Super Tuesday dramatically reduced the likelihood that any of Gov. Romney’s opponents can obtain the Republican nomination, the campaign stated in the memo, titled, Our opponents’ last stand: A postmortem.

It notes that Romney increased his edge in delegates after Super Tuesday:

Governor Romney now has more than twice as many delegates as Sen. Santorum and four times more than Speaker Gingrich. He has won twice as many states as Sen. Santorum and seven times more than Speaker Gingrich.

According to the Romney campaign’s math, he picked up 205 delegates on Tuesday, while Santorum picked up 85 and Gingrich won 73. That gives Romney a 430-185 edge in the total delegate count over Santorum. To win the nomination, a candidate needs 1,144 delegates.

Romney voiced confidence that he’ll lock up the nomination in an interview Wednesday on CNBC.

“We’ve got a very strong lead in delegates,” he said. “We’ve got the time and the resources and a plan to get all the delegates, and we think that will get done before the convention.

“One thing I can tell you for sure, is there’s not going to be a brokered convention where some new person comes in and becomes the nominee.”

But the tight race in the marquee state of Ohio, where Romney edged Santorum by a mere 1 percent, won’t put to rest concerns that conservatives aren’t coalescing around his candidacy. It also undercut Romney’s claim to be the candidate best able to beat Obama in the swing states that decide presidential elections.

His loss in Tennessee means Romney hasn’t won a state yet in the Deep South. He lost South Carolina in January and, while he won Florida’s primary, that state is not typically counted among the Southern bloc.

Romney has struggled with Tea Party supporters, very conservative voters and evangelical Christians — three groups that hold large sway over GOP primaries in many Southern states.

Still, it will be difficult for any of Romney’s rivals to overtake him.

When April begins, the states become winner-take-all contests, and Romney is expected to take a large batch of states in the Northeast that vote on April 24.

Santorum and Gingrich are also getting in each other’s way.

Gingrich earlier in the contest called on Santorum to drop out, and on Wednesday a super-PAC that supports Santorum called for Gingrich to withdraw, arguing his candidacy has become a “hindrance” to conservatives looking to take down Romney.

“With Gingrich exiting the race it would be a true head-to-head race and conservatives would be able to make a choice between a consistent conservative in Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney,” Stuart Roy, an adviser for the Red, White, and Blue Fund, said in the statement. “For instance, with Gingrich out of the race, Santorum would have won both Ohio and Michigan. Newt has become a hindrance to a conservative alternative.”

Gingrich has been campaigning in Alabama and Mississippi, and could give Santorum a challenge in those states, which vote next Tuesday.

John Brabender, an adviser to Santorum’s campaign, told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday: “There’s been poll after poll that shows if Rick Santorum were just to have a one-on-one shot with Mitt Romney that the Gingrich supporters go right to Rick Santorum in big numbers. Conservatives and Tea Party folks are going to have a decision to make: Do we want Mitt Romney to be the nominee or not, or do we want to just keep splitting our vote?”