- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2012

MARS, Pa. — Mitt Romney swept Tuesday’s primaries in Maryland, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia, putting more distance between himself and the rest of the GOP presidential field in a race that party leaders have said they would like to see wrapped up soon.

Chief rival Rick Santorum was a distant runner-up in Maryland and significantly behind Mr. Romney in Wisconsin. He didn’t even bother to file for the ballot in the District, an indication of the struggle faced by those seeking to deny Mr. Romney the nomination.

“We won ‘em all,” the former Massachusetts governor exulted at his victory party in Milwaukee. “This really has been quite a night. We won a great victory tonight in our campaign to restore the promise of America.”

The night’s wins officially gave Mr. Romney more than 600 delegates, which is more than halfway to the 1,144 needed to win the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in late August.

Heading into Tuesday, the Associated Press tally showed Mr. Romney had collected 572 delegates, exactly half of the number needed. Mr. Santorum had 272, Mr. Gingrich had 135 and Mr. Paul had 51. While most of the political world was focused on the competition between Mr. Romney and Mr. Santorum for the 42 delegates up for grabs in Wisconsin, a total of 95 delegates were on the line.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were battling for second in the District of Columbia and third in the other two states, continuing to search for momentum to keep them in the race.

But none of them showed any sign of conceding ahead of primaries on April 24 in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Mr. Paul is looking past those states to California, and Mr. Gingrich has announced plans to campaign in Delaware. Mr. Santorum hopes to use his home state of Pennsylvania to rejuvenate his bid.

Speaking to more than 200 people gathered in a hotel ballroom in Mars, just north of Pittsburgh, Mr. Santorum said the race is now at halftime.

“Who is ready to charge out of the locker room in Pennsylvania for a strong second half?” he said, sparking applause from the crowd.

Mr. Santorum likened his never-say-die approach to Ronald Reagan’s failed presidential bid in 1976 and the surprise attack that George Washington launched against Hessian forces when he crossed the Delaware River in 1776, which “turned the tide of the Revolution.”

“Pennsylvania and half the other people in this country have yet to be heard, and we are going to go out and campaign here and across the nation to make sure their voices are heard in the next few months,” he said.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday boosted his hopes, finding that Mr. Santorum holds a 41 percent to 35 percent lead in Pennsylvania over Mr. Romney with three weeks to go. Mr. Santorum served four terms in the House and two terms as a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania before losing his seat in the 2006 elections.

But with most states having already held primaries or caucuses, the chances are dimming for the others to catch up with Mr. Romney.

Mr. Romney increased his lead over the weekend even without another state voting, when the North Dakota Republican Party’s state convention awarded him a majority of delegates from that state — even though Mr. Romney had placed third in caucuses there earlier this year.

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