The news on Easter Sunday was of an election season — and a candidate field — in the throes of transition.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin previewed the economic arguments the parties will present this fall in the Midwest and beyond, with Democrats making the case for the auto bailout and Republicans countering that their many governors are responsible for improving conditions.
But the internal struggles of the GOP continued to be much in evidence. Newt Gingrich tweaked Mitt Romney with mentions of “etch a sketch” and “severely conservative” even as he seemed to perform last rites on his own campaign — talking not of winning delegates but of influencing the party platform, and all but acknowledging Romney’s inevitability.
Evangelical leader Richard Land, meanwhile, urged social conservative Rick Santorum to leave the race, the better to preserve his options for 2016. Rep. Raul Labrador beseeched Romney — a fellow Mormon — to talk more about his religion and how it made him the man he is. And Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Romney’s religion is not a good reason to oppose him. He said people of all religions should make sure “religious prejudice, religious bigotry doesn’t enter the campaign.”
It’s a plea Romney can’t make directly, but one that could help determine whether the GOP front-runner is able to capture not just the nomination but the White House.
— National Journal's Jill Lawrence
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRIMARY REPORT
Campaigns Gird for Battlegrounds
[Wall Street Journal, 4/7/12] The general election campaign seems to have started already, with Romney the all-but-certain nominee. Both are expected to battle it out state-by-state for a win that could be hard-fought this fall, and potentially based on a handful of wins in swing states.
GOP Superdelegates: It's Over, Romney is Nominee
[Associated Press, 4/7/12] Republican National Committee members who will definitely attend the convention this summer already think they know who's going to be the nominee: Mitt Romney.
Gingrich: Romney 'Far and Away' Most Likely Republican Nominee
[National Journal, 4/8/12] Although he's still technically in the race, Newt Gingrich's rhetoric on Sunday belied a candidate that has all but conceded to Mitt Romney. Gingrich said he had to be "realistic" about Romney's chances.
Mitt Romney Losing Popularity During the Long Road to Nomination
[Detroit Free Press, 4/8/12] Though Romney wins primary states, the races he runs in each tend to hurt his standing with voters there, as poll after poll show his favorability declining following election day. This could spell bad news for the candidate, especially as the primary season looks likely to drag on for months more.
Is Mitt Romney Damaged Goods After a Brutal Primary Season?
[The Daily Beast, 4/8/12] With Romney's disapproval rating hitting a record high last month, it seems that the primary campaign season has done more harm than good for Romney. But he's better off than Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Bill Clinton in 1992 were, and the race isn't over yet.
Romney Faces Challenges in Wooing Female Voters
[Associated Press, 4/7/12] Both Romney and Obama see the importance of female voters, but Romney faces challenges Obama does not: An historically hostile demographic, a number of party missteps on women's issues, and political math all spell trouble for the former Massachusetts governor when it comes to the female vote.
Experts: Mitt Won’t Have to Pick Woman
[Boston Herald, 4/7/12] Even though Romney has a clear disadvantage with female voters, GOP experts say he won't have to choose a female running mate to shore up the support of that demographic. Instead, he'll need to find an exciting running mate that will spur GOP supporters across the board to turn out on election day.
Labrador's Advice to Romney: Talk About Your Mormon Religion
[National Journal, 4/8/12] Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, had advice for Mitt Romney, a fellow Mormon: Share your religion with voters.
Fund-Raising Game Upended in 2012 Race
[Boston Globe, 4/8/12] The rise of super PACs has brought increased dependence on contributions from wealthy Americans, corporations, and unions, rather than small donations from public citizens. Though Republicans have an advantage with these big-check backers, Democrats have thus far had to shell out far less during their campaigns nationwide.
Isn't it "Marvelous?" Obama Seeks to Define Romney for Voters
[Reuters, 4/7/12] Obama is already trying to frame his likely opponent as out-of-touch and awkward on the campaign trail, tying him not only to politically-controversial policies like Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan, but also to Romney's unusual word choices and gaffes.
In Politics, ‘Big’ is Bad
[Washington Post, 4/8/12] With a populist wave sweeping the nation, big government and big business have become increasingly unpopular with many Americans. But running against these big organizations won't be easy for Romney or Obama this fall.
Santorum Cancels Monday Events to Stay With Daughter Bella
[National Journal, 4/8/12] Bella Santorum has been hospitalized for the second time during the primary campaign season, and again her father is taking time off from running to spend with her.
Santorum Moves Fuel Predictions He Will Exit
[Boston Globe, 4/7/12] Santorum canceled events through Monday due to his daughter Bella's poor health, but Pennsylvania Republicans see this as a sign he'll drop out before the race in their state -- in part, to save face in a state he's looking increasingly likely to lose.
Richard Land Asks Santorum to End His Campaign
[National Journal, 4/8/12] Evangelical leader Richard Land on Sunday urged presidential candidate Rick Santorum to exit the Republican nomination race and save face for a future White House run.