As April comes into bloom he can finally see the finish line for the GOP primaries. And despite being beat up by the far right he is heading into the general election far stronger than he might appear at first glance.
As it stands now, Mitt Romney has half the delegates he needs to clinch the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. Unlike his remaining rivals, he has the money and a clear path to win the other half.
Next Tuesday, GOP voters in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia look ready to deliver another 98 delegates to the Romney column in their winner-take-all primaries.
Three weeks later, on April 25, the Northeastern states will likely give where the former Massachusetts governor an insurmountable lead in the delegate count.
Romney has always been favored in his home region and in the states that will be voting on that day -- New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. A win in Pennsylvania would be especially important because it is the home state of Romney’s most viable GOP competitor, former Senator Rick Santorum. A barrage of Romney ads savaging Santorum has already started there.
Team Romney is confident that late April will be their time to transition from primary mode into general election mode as the GOP establishment and the media crown him a winner.
"I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes," Romney campaign senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said last week in remarks a tad too revealing. "It's almost like an ‘Etch-A-Sketch.’ You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again."
It is a good plan but one with potential pitfalls for a candidate who is seen by his own base as a flip-flopper and inauthentic.
Romney has had to stake out hard-line conservative positions as a culture warrior on immigration, abortion and gay marriage in order to win over the base and capture the GOP nomination. Recasting Romney as a paragon of political moderation will likely dampen the rally around Romney instinct the GOP base.
Romney’s best hope is that Tea Party followers are so committed to defeating the president that they will keep quiet about their lack of faith in him.
On the other hand, the ‘Etch-a-Sketch’ strategy does look good with independent and swing voters. They are the heart of an increasingly cynical electorate – they don’t expect politicians to tell the truth.
And most swing voters have not begun to seriously pay attention to the presidential campaign yet. A Gallup poll from last fall found that only 35 percent of Americans say they follow national politics very closely. After Romney becomes the presumptive nominee, they will begin to pay attention.
When voters are laser-focused on jobs and fiscal issues, they may well ignore Romney’s past inconsistencies if they like the economic message he will drive home before Election Day.
Romney will have the campaign cash to make that economic message. The Associated Press has reported that Romney has in place a national network of wealthy donors who are have been quietly bundling hundreds of millions of dollars. The campaign is under no legal obligation to disclose the names of these bundlers.
Then there are the tens of millions of dollars that is being raised by "Restore our Future," the Super PAC supporting Romney’s candidacy. It has supported $1.3 million in advertising in Wisconsin alone, ahead of the state’s GOP primary next week.
American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, the two largest Republican Super PACs, have pledged $300 million this year to defeat President Obama and the Democrats and elect Republicans.
In 2011 alone, Restore our Future, Crossroads and Crossroads GPS brought in $80 million for the cause. They are far outpacing President Obama’s Super PAC and Team Obama knows it.
In a fundraising appeal send to supporters on the Obama campaign list serve this week, campaign staffer Toby Falsgraff wrote
"You're going to be hearing a lot from us this week… Saturday is the first big fundraising deadline of 2012. A lot rides on this one -- including just how many field organizers the campaign can hire this spring. They're the decisions that could win or lose this election, so people on my team are working hard to make sure every supporter out there has a chance to help."
Falsgraff asks supporters for as little as $3 and says, "Either way, thanks for supporting President Obama -- and for bearing with us over the next few days."
Obama's fundraising in recent months has fallen below the record-shattering pace of his 2008 campaign with his committees reporting a $39 million collected in February 2011, down from $55 million in February 2008.
The Obama campaign has been raising money off the president's NCAA bracket and raffling off "Dinner with Barack."
In March alone, Obama also has raked in millions of dollars from donors at fundraising events in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and Washington.
The most recent polling from Rasmussen and McClatchy/Marist shows Romney statistically tied with President Obama in a head-to-head general election match-up. They have both have Obama slightly ahead but well within the margin of error, 45 to 44 and 46 to 44, respectively.
The bottom line is that despite being wounded in the GOP primaries Romney is heading into the general election campaign this spring a lot stronger than anyone, myself included, thought he would be.
President Obama will be there, ready for the big fight in the fall.
Juan Williams currently serves as a co-host of FOX News Channel’s (FNC) The Five (weekdays 5-6PM/ET) and also appears as a political analyst on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace and Special Report with Bret Baier. Williams joined the network as a contributor in 1997.