With Tuesday’s clean sweep of five more Republican primaries, Mitt Romney has clearly secured the GOP presidential nomination. And – for the first time – even previously-cynical members of the Republican establishment now believe Romney has a real chance to defeat President Obama in November.
Thus pressure is being exerted on all the remaining candidates, i.e. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum -- to embrace Romney and get everyone on the same page.
So it was no coincidence that Tuesday morning it was announced that Santorum and Mitt would be meeting on Friday, May 4, for their first sit-down since Santorum suspended his campaign.
And last night, in an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN, a clearly still-reluctant Santorum, with his wife by his side, was almost bullied into endorsing (sort of!) Mitt Romney.
Then came the news that Newt Gingrich who, it was leaked, would reconsider his status if he lost in Delaware on Tuesday.
He did. Indeed, he was soundly defeated by almost 30 points.
But the announcement that he would be "suspending" his campaign didn't come on Tuesday night.
It came on Wednesday when he said that he would suspend or end his bid for the White House. He might endorse Romney.
Given his statements on Tuesday night it's not quite clear what will happen. Take this sentence, for example, "If he does end up as the nominee, I think every conservative in this country has to be committed to defeating Barack Obama and let’s be very clear about this." Does "defeating Barack Obama" also mean getting behind Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee?
We will wait and see.
There's no doubt about one thing. The GOP establishment has begun to exert pressure on the former Speaker to drop out and endorse Romney. Party unity is being pushed as a precursor to waging an all-out, unified Republican and conservative assault on President Obama. But this can’t be done if there is a Republican candidate who is still carping at Romney and drawing attention away from the main message.
Newt knows it's all over. But he has a hard time, at the age of 68, giving up the spotlight as a presidential candidate; it is virtually certain that he will never again be a national political candidate. Plus, now he is angling for post-election speaking fees and maybe a TV gig to replace the Fox News contributorship he lost last spring when he began his campaign. Rumor has it he is talking to CNN.
With the GOP on the verge of unity, the focus on how to amass 270 electoral votes has begun. It remains a daunting task.
Contrary to close match-ups between Romney and Obama in national polls, the actual race is leaning heavily for Obama as of today. The president is within striking distance of the 270 needed to win and has many routes to that total.
Governor Romney has a more difficult path to the magic number of 270 including in the all-important state of Ohio, which he just about has to win but where he trails by 6 points. That is why Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman is the leading candidate to become Romney’s running mate.
With six months to go until Election Day, the GOP now believes Romney has a real chance to defeat Obama in a race no one thought was winnable a year ago.
Now it is up to Team Romney to run a campaign against a powerful president -- and his allies in the so-called "mainstream media" -- who will do anything to hold on to the Oval Office.
Newt, what will you do?
Former New York Republican Congressman John LeBoutillier is co-host with pollsters Doug Schoen and Pat Caddell of "Campaign Insiders" which can be see every Monday at 10:30am ET on "FoxNews.com Live."
Former New York Republican Congressman John LeBoutillier is a Fox News contributor. He appears along with pollstersand fellow contributors Doug Schoen and Pat Caddell on "Political Insiders" which can be see Sunday afternoons on Fox News Channel.