MILWAUKEE, Wis. - When we look back on this year's Wisconsin primary, we'll probably think of it as the moment when everything changed
The Badger State, which holds the most consequential of today's three primaries , represents the culmination of Mitt Romney's two-part strategy to swamp his opponent on the television airwaves and to circle the Republican Party wagons around him.
The Romney campaign and the pro-Romney super PAC have accomplished the first goal - far outspending Rick Santorum and his allies here. And endorsements over the last week by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and Rep. Paul Ryan have pumped up Romney's inevitability argument.
Romney hardly mentions his rivals on the campaign trail anymore and today's Wall Street Journal report that Romney will begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee "reflects a general clamor within the party to begin amassing the funds needed to compete with Mr. Obama's fundraising operation," the Journal's Neil King and Brody Mullins note. http://on.wsj.com/Hkif6E
"Our donors are ready to mobilize for November and understand that, for the Republican nominee to be able to compete with the $1 billion Obama machine, they need to get started now," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement. "We are confident Gov. Romney will be that nominee."
And as the coalescing of top Republicans around Romney continues, something else has changed too: perhaps more than in any other primary state so far, voters here in Wisconsin have had enough of the Republican nominating contest and say they are ready to move on. http://abcn.ws/HPf4G3
At a recent fish fry in Milwaukee, Paul Seifert, Waukesha, Wis. physician, told ABC News he had decided to support Romney because "he's the only one who can beat Obama."
"I very much hope that he gets the nomination and we get this thing settled soon. These guys are kind of tearing each other apart in the process," Seifert said. "I think it's a circular firing squad at this point."
In a series of interviews, we heard a similar sentiment even among the undecided. Ed Butte of Pewaukee, Wis., who stopped by a pancake breakfast last weekend to listen to Romney, said he was still making up his mind about who to vote for today.
"The sooner we can get on to focusing on the real issues and bringing those to the American public as opposed to just constant back and forth fighting will be beneficial for the long term," Butte said. "Things are starting to align, so let's make a decision, let's move forward and get on with it."
Santorum, on the other hand, is not ready to give up. He told reporters at an Appleton, Wis. cheese shop yesterday, "in this primary, the longer it goes the better it is for the party."
The latest polls show Romney leading here, but how big does his win need to be to show that he finally has a firm grip on the GOP nominating process? Five points or more signals strength. Anything less than that and we may be back to the why-can't-he-close-the-deal question.
On "Good Morning America" today ABC's John Berman took a look at Romney's chances in today's primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/HcW5pO
by ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield
What's At Stake? A total of 98 delegates are at stake on Tuesday: 42 in Wisconsin, 19 in D.C., and 37 in Maryland. The District of Columbia's primary is winner-take-all, meaning that whoever receives the highest percentage of the vote gets all of the delegates. Maryland and Wisconsin are both winner-take-all by congressional district. The allotment scheme in Maryland and Wisconsin allows the second-place finisher potentially to score a couple of delegates here or there if he is able to carry any congressional districts, but for the most part the winner of the state will get a big majority of the state's delegates.
The Money Game. Candidates and their allies have poured serious change into the Wisconsin airwaves. Romney and his allies have spent upwards of $3.1 million on TV ad buys, according to a source tracking GOP ad buys. For comparison, Santorum and his allies have spent roughly $717,000 on TV ad buys, a margin of about 4:1. Romney and Santorum aren't alone on the airwaves. The Super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich- Winning Our Future- made a small ad buy in the Badger state- $120,381, according to their FEC filings.
Delegate Math. If the current polling holds and Romney is able to sweep all three primaries, he would increase his already strong delegate lead, making it almost impossible, mathematically speaking, for the other candidates to catch up to him. However, just as likely, he'll continue to share the field for the foreseeable future.
BILL CLINTON PREDICTS… Former president Bill Clinton told ABC News' Jake Tapper that he largely agrees with the assessment that President Obama will be re-elected. "I think that he's gonna win handily, and I have for a long time," Clinton told ABC News in an exclusive interview. "I actually have since the 2010 elections. Which made me sad, but…what the right-wing says always sounds better when they're sayin' it than when they're doin' it. So I thought after the 2010 elections, they basically assured his reelection." As for the unknowns, the former president said, "you could have a crisis in the Eurozone, and because American banks have big investments in European banks, that could hurt us. You could have a crisis in Iran blow up in a way that, you know, added $50 a barrel to oil prices. Even though we're producing more oil than ever before, you see? And the world is clearly worried about that. 'Cause you saw all those people talkin' about takin' down their oil reserves." "There's always something that could happen," he continued. "But even if that happens- most Americans believe the president's done a good job on national security. I obviously think he's got a great national security team….So I'd be very surprised if an intervening event derailed the path I think this election's on." http://abcn.ws/HasJfv
ROMNEY GOES ON IMMIGRATION OFFENSIVE. Mitt Romney yesterday flatly accused President Obama of reneging on his campaign promise to enact sweeping immigration reform, despite enjoying a Democrat-controlled Congress for his first two years in office, ABC's Emily Friedman and Matthew Jaffe reports."This has always been a priority for the president he chooses to do nothing about," Romney said. "Let the immigrant community not forget that while he uses this as a political weapon, he has not taken responsibility for fixing the problems we have." The GOP frontrunner's comments came at a town hall meeting at the Moore Oil Company here after an audience member, noting that his girlfriend would have to return to Spain soon when her visa runs out, asked about immigration reform. "My own view is our immigration policies are upside down," he continued. "We make it very hard for people who have skills that we need - education and English-speaking and workplace skills - make it very hard for those people to come here and to stay here. On the other hand, those that don't have any of those things are often times able to come either across the border or over-stay their visas and remain in this country indefinitely. So we've got it backwards." http://abcn.ws/HL5Mym
NOTED: On Monday a young man started reading verses from the Book of Mormon, sparking a tense moment during a town hall. Romney shot him down, but later circled back, saying he's willing to talk about the practices of his faith but not the doctrine. http://abcn.ws/H9g7mC
OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD ATTACKS ROMNEY AS A PAWN OF BIG OIL. President Obama's re-election campaign is joining an escalating air war over gas prices and oil subsidies with a new TV ad in several states attacking Mitt Romney as a defender of "Big Oil," notes ABC's Devin Dwyer. The 30-second spot, airing in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, portrays President Obama as under attack by wealthy oil companies and their allies who feel threatened by his calls to eliminate taxpayer subsidies and invest in new energy sources. "In all these fights, Mitt Romney's stood with Big Oil - for their tax breaks, attacking higher mileage standards and renewables," the narrator says. The ad also reacts to a $3.6 million ad campaign launched last week by the American Energy Alliance - a nonprofit group with Republican ties - that is sharply critical of the president for gas prices and his handling of the Keystone XL pipeline and the failed solar start-up Solyndra. "When you see this ad," the Obama ad says in response, "remember who paid for it. And what they want." http://abcn.ws/H9BVuA
SANTORUM VISITS BIRTHPLACE OF THE GOP. Rick Santorum paid a visit to the town described as the birthplace of the Republican Party as he made his final stop in Wisconsin yesterday before today's primary, ABC's Arlette Saenz reports. "We came to where the Republican Party first met," Santorum told reporters in Ripon. "From the beginning to the end of the beginning if you will." Santorum toured the Little White School House, where a group met in 1854 and decided to form a new political party - the Republican Party - though other towns across the country, such as Exeter, N.H., have also staked claims to being the true birthplace of the party. But as he visited the school house, Santorum was greeted outside by loud protesters, who nearly outnumbered the supporters who gathered to see him. The protesters carried bright colored signs and chanted phrases like "Don't pick Rick!," "Lincoln was a liberal," and "Gays are people too." Earlier in the day, Santorum claimed the negativity emanating from the Romney campaign lowers voter turnout, but explained to reporters that his campaign will overcome it and bring voters to the polls. "Maybe $5 to 10 million of spending on top of your head running negative ads, driving down turnout might have something to do about it," Santorum said. http://abcn.ws/H57SFF
NOTABLE: Santorum bowled for the final time in Wisconsin during a stop at Sabre Lanes in Menasha on Monday. He beat a young girl 152 to 150. Don't worry, the campaign is planning bowling outings in Pennsylvania as well.
GINGRICH IS BACK ON THE ATTACK. After a week of laying off his rivals, GOP contender Newt Gingrich today tore into Mitt Romney, saying, "You can't run a campaign with no principles," and vowing to "go to Tampa" to contest the nomination, according to ABC's Russell Goldman in Maryland. Gingrich showed no signs of quitting the race, arguing that Romney does not have close to the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination and insisting there is still the possibility of an open convention in Tampa. "I can't tell you today how realistic it is that we will get to an open convention, and I can't tell you today with any certainty that I will be the nominee," Gingrich told a modest crowd in the showroom at a car dealership. "But I can tell you a couple of things. Despite six years of campaigning, $40 million dollars of his own money, millions raised from Wall Street - largely from people who got our tax money from the bailout - Governor Romney doesn't have it locked down. And we have no obligation to back off and concede anything until he does." http://abcn.ws/H92UdE
PRIMARY FATIGUE SETS IN. In a series of interviews with ABC News in all corners of the state, which is holding its nominating contest on Tuesday, voters expressed a similar message: enough already! Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat and has not endorsed a presidential candidate, said in an interview with ABC News that he and his fellow Wisconsinites were ready to move on. "People want the primary over, they want to get on with it. They're saying, 'enough's enough. Romney is not everything everybody really wants, but he's got the best chance against Obama,'" Thompson said, noting that his assessment of Romney reflected the prevailing sentiment among voters, not necessarily his own view. "We're done with the preliminary bouts and now it's time for the main event," Thompson said at a Waukesha County GOP Lincoln Day dinner on Saturday, "and that's Romney and Obama." Many Wisconsin voters, who have been beset by a prolonged political drama in their own state where Republican Gov. Scott Walker is facing a June recall election, agreed. "If it continues on, it's actually detrimental. It's actually going to be worse," said Michael Best of Pewaukee, Wis., who said he was undecided but leaning toward Romney. "We need to focus and pick one candidate right now and then move with that one candidate forward." http://abcn.ws/HPf4G3
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX:
-SUSAN B. ANTHONY LIST ANNOUNCES NEW WAVE OF ENDORSEMENTS. The pro-life group, the Susan B. Anthony List, announced a new round of endorsements in key Congressional and state races today. The group, which is dedicated to electing pro-life women and their allies, is backing Wendy Long in the New York U.S. Senate Race, Cherilyn Eagar in Utah's 2nd Congressional district, Bobby Schilling in Illinois 17th Congressional district, and Rebecca Kleefisch, Wisconsin's Lt. Governor, who is facing a recall election. "We are proud to endorse these dedicated pro-life leaders who will be champions for all Americans, born and unborn, in their elected offices," said SBA List Candidate Fund President Marjorie Dannenfelser. "At a time when American voters are thirsty for authentic pro-life leadership these candidates stand out from their ardently pro-abortion counterparts."According to the group, during the 2010 election cycle, "SBA List spent $11 million and was involved in 90 races, 62 of which resulted in victories. Successes included: defeating 15 of 20 so-called "pro-life" Democrats who voted for abortion funding in the health care reform bill, increasing the number of pro-life women in the House by 70 percent." Here's a full list of the candidates the Susan B. Anthony List has endorsed: http://www.sba-list.org/endorsed-candidates.
-REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS ASSOCIATION TOUTS FUNDRAISING NUMBERS. According to an RGA official, the group has raised "$12.2 million in the first quarter, a $5 million, or 70 percent, increase over our first quarter fundraising totals from 2008, the last comparable election year. Fundraising haul even surpassed the amount raised in the first quarter of 2010. We will also announce $34 million cash on hand, the most money we've ever had in the bank at the end of a first quarter. We've increased our cash on hand total by more than $30 million over the previous twelve months." In Wisconsin, the RGA is running television ads supporting embattles Gov. Scott Walker, who is facing a June 5 recall and received the endorsement of the Milwaukee Police and Firefighters Association this week.
@ZekeJMiller : My tweets from overnight live-tweeting the @mikeallen #ebook: http://storify.com/zekejmiller/live-tweeting-the-at-mikeallen-ebook
@johndickerson : Bloomberg on Mitt Romney, Harvard man: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-29/romney-thrived-at-harvard-as-he-mocks-obama-tie-to-school.html
@maggiepolitico : Axe hits Romney as in a "time warp," like something out of "Mad Men." Hey, that's the show that dinged George Romney http://nationaljournal.com/2012-presidential-campaign/david-axelrod-romney-in-a-time-warp-20120403?mrefid=election2012
PRIMARY STATE SPEED READ
by ABC's Chris Good
-Wisconsin Inundated With Robocalls. Wisconsin phones are ringing with robocalls, mostly from Mitt Romney's campaign and the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Oddly, one of the calls features Santorum criticizing Romney, replaying a line for which Santorum took a small bit of criticism: "Pick any other Republican in the country! He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama!" recipients hear Santorum say. http://bit.ly/HD0Pah
-Wisconsin Vote Geography. The Associated Press takes a look at the suburban/rural divide between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum voters: "Romney can roll up a solid win in Tuesday's presidential primary with a strong showing along the state's east-west Interstate 94, which bisects Milwaukee's GOP-rich western suburbs. Santorum's fading hopes rest on swamping Romney in cities and towns along north-south Interstate 43, which lead from Milwaukee north through the industrial and blue-collar base of the Fox River Valley." http://bit.ly/HB6XQq
-Poll: Santorum Leads in Pennsylvania. After a Franklin & Marshall College poll showed Rick Santorum's lead slipping to two percentage points in his home state last week, Quinnipiac University finds him leading Mitt Romney by six percentage points, 41 percent to 35 percent. Santorum has built his biggest leads among white evangelical Christians, tea-party-supporters, and men. http://bit.ly/HaLIRj
- Mitt Romney will meet with supporters at a lunch in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Later in the evening, the campaign will hold a primary party in Milwaukee.
- Rick Santorum will hold an election night party in Mars, Pennsylvania.
- Ron Paul will attend a town hall in Chico, California.
- Newt Gingrich is off the campaign trail for the day. His wife Callista will speak to a Republican women's group in Delaware.
-ABC's Joanna Suarez
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV
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