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Is Mitt Still Worried About Rick?

9:55 AM, Mar 10, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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On Super Tuesday, Mitt Romney won six of the ten contests, a majority of delegates allocated, and more security in his march to victory at the Republican convention in Tampa. The Romney campaign not only claimed victory Tuesday night, they've since argued that winning the nomination is "an impossibility" for either Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich. “For those guys it’s going to take some sort of act of God to get to where they need to be on the nomination front,” a Romney official told reporters Wednesday morning.

Santorum and Romney

But as Sean Trende points out, Romney’s path to the requisite number of delegates to secure the nomination simply isn’t a sure bet. That may explain why the Romney campaign is saying one thing and doing another. Consider that on Wednesday, the Romney team forwarded a memo to reporters outlining the campaign’s belief that Super Tuesday was their opponents’ “last stand” and that the math shows Romney is essentially inevitable. “Few large delegate prizes remain,” the memo explained. “The allocation rules prevent large delegate gains…Primaries begin to dominate.”

So if Romney has all but won the nomination, one might expect that he simply set his sights on Barack Obama and the general election. But Boston is still splitting time between attacking Obama and going after Santorum.

Since Wednesday, the Romney campaign has issued four press releases criticizing Obama. The releases hit the president on gas prices, domestic energy production, the president’s upcoming 17-minute infomercial, and the February jobs numbers. But Romney also issued four press releases criticizing Rick Santorum. “LOBBYIST/CONGRESSMAN/SENATOR RICK SANTORUM: THE INSIDER’S INSIDER,” read one. “SANTORUM AND K STREET: PERFECT TEAMMATES,” read another. The campaign has also knocked Santorum for his ties to organized labor and touted a recent NPR article titled “Economic Conservatives Question Santorum's Record.” Campaign officials have sent out articles highlighting Santorum’s “delegate woes.” (Update: The Romney camp is also buying up ad time against Santorum.)

That's fair enough for a campaign fighting it out in a primary battle, but it's puzzling if you believe the Romney campaign that a Santorum nomination is impossible.

Santorum certainly hasn't acted as if the Tuesday's results dashed his campaign hopes. He has followed Super Tuesday with renewed attacks on both Romney and Gingrich, his obvious rival for the conservative wing of the party. Santorum has staked his future victories on contrasting himself with his rivals on Obamacare, with his campaign alerting the press that Romney advocated for an individual mandate not just as governor of Massachusetts but also early on during the Obamacare debate in 2009. "ROMNEY BUSTED AGAIN!" reads one recent press release.

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