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Romney in the Driver’s Seat

Santorum, Paul, and Gingrich on the side of the road

Marc Tracy
February 29, 2012
Mitt Romney, victorious last night.(Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Mitt Romney, victorious last night.(Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Last night’s two victories for Mitt Romney can be interpreted, through the lens of delegate-counting, sophisticated political calculation, and the top-secret Momentum Quotient, as … a victory for Romney. Rick Santorum (and even Newt Gingrich, newly refueled by Sheldon Adelson) could still grab a few states next Super Tuesday, and Rep. Ron Paul is going to stick around until the end, siphoning off delegates in non-winner-take-all states. But Romney’s wins last night in Michigan and Arizona now more than ever make him the prohibitive frontrunner to be the eventual Republican nominee for president.

And not a moment too soon for the Jews, many of whom were beginning to get antsy about Santorum and his overtly, conspicuously Christian brand of social politics. Although I reported last week that Santorum found Jewish supporters among those who trust his character and laud his judgment on foreign policy, and though some Orthodox Jews were backing him (for them his public religion is an asset), others were getting cranky. After Santorum rejected President Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech emphasizing a separation of church and state (Santorum said the speech made him want to “throw up”), the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman responded, “Santorum’s remarks on the need for more religion in politics are deeply disturbing and show a profound misunderstanding of the First Amendment,” adding, “in a religiously diverse and pluralistic democracy, people of one faith should not seek to use the power of the government to impose their views on people of other faiths or of no faith.” Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, a crucial backer of presidential candidates, was characteristically more succinct: “Santorum is nuts,” he said (“and I say that in a loving way,” he characteristically added). And the Times of Israel’s Ben Gold reported on Jewish Democrats licking their lips at the prospect of facing Santorum in the fall.

Which leaves us with Paul, the Jews’ true bête noire. He has clearly been sucking up to Team Romney—somebody noted that Paul has attacked Santorum directly in debates dozens of times, and Romney not once—in the hopes, many speculated, of getting his son, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, on the ticket. But he did not have a great night (although, granted, he is strategically picking his spots, and neither Michigan nor Arizona were his spots). Some have reported that including a Paul is the only way for Romney to get Paul supporters’ votes. But, because of his son’s political future, Paul cannot run his own campaign. And, as GQ’s Marin Cogan reported, those actually close to Paul dismiss talk of an alliance with Romney.

It’s been a long and winding road, and I suspect we’re not quite through traveling it—there may even be another detour or two (gosh, one only hopes!). But the scenario most foresaw at the outset—an ultimate Romney triumph—looks by far most likely.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.