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With Romney's third place finish in Mississippi and Alabama Tuesday, one thing is certain: The Republican presidential primaries may remain Mitt Romney's to win, but that has more to do with arithmetic and delegates than it does with voters.
Given his win in Hawaii last night, the former governor only trailed last night's big winner Rick Santorum by 4 delegates (35 to 31) at the end of the night.
With the delegate count now 495 for Romney and 252 for Santorum, the former Massachusetts governor is likely to be at -- or just shy of -- the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination. In such a situation, he would be almost certain to pick up the 114 unpledged delegates as well as the 86 delegates in states that have already voted that have yet to be allocated.
But that being said, it is hard to be elected president when you keep losing states.
Put simply, there is no real momentum for Mitt Romney in terms of the voters.
Despite out-spending Santorum and Gingrich by better than 3 to 1 in both states between Super PAC and campaign expenditures, the former Massachusetts governor simply proved unable to rally more than his core constituency of suburban and urban, mostly upscale Republicans.
What last night’s third place finishes underscores is that while the delegate math is looking increasingly good, Romney still has not been able to win enough Evangelical, Tea Party and very conservative voters to close the deal.
His frontrunner status has more to do with the fact that he is the best organized, best-funded candidate than it does with popular support. And the sheer power of his money, negative ads and his organizational muscle are what makes him the favorite to win.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist, Fox News contributor, and author of several books including the forthcoming "Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond" (Rowman and Littlefield). Follow Doug on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.