Inside the Beltway: Polls don’t hold strong promise for Santorum

It’s 18 days until the next Republican presidential primary, leaving political junkies wondering what to do with themselves until April 24, when voters in Connecticut, New York, Delaware, Rhode Island and much-scrutinized Pennsylvania stroll to the polls. A panacea? Surveys and nice wonkish takes on the old horse race ought to help.

Two polls already suggest that former Sen. Rick Santorum faces a mighty struggle with rival Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania, the home state that now is key to the former senator’s success. Now New York appears to be Romney-centric as well. Quinnipiac University has released its first findings on New York voters to conclude that Mr. Romney “thumps” Mr. Santorum with 54 percent to 21 percent of the support among likely GOP primary voters in the Empire State. Newt Gingrich garners 9 percent, Rep. Ron Paul has 8 percent.

While the pollster also finds that 8 percent of those voters are still undecided and 39 percent might change their minds, there’s still more buoyant news for Mr. Romney, who tops Mr. Santorum by huge percentages among both men and women, and also enjoys a handsome lead among conservatives and tea partyers.

“Assuming the numbers hold until April 24, Mitt Romney sweeps the statewide Republican vote — good for 34 delegates to the party convention. The question is whether Santorum can pick off one of the 29 districts, each good for two delegates,” observes Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

CANDIDATE TRACKER

The National Retail Federation has found that the 82 percent of Americans who celebrate Easter will spend a total of $16.8 billion on food, decorations and apparel this year. (Orange County Register via Associated Press)

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The National Retail Federation has found that the 82 percent of Americans ... more >

There is not much to track this Easter weekend. All four Republican hopefuls have retreated from the relentless campaign trail for the weekend, and well beyond. Rep. Ron Paul, at this juncture, does not have another event scheduled until May 1, when he ventures to swanky Bel Air, Calif., for a private fundraiser with best-selling author and economist Nassim Taleb.

Mitt Romney’s next big appearance is April 16, when he attends a Boston Red Sox baseball game with two of his fans who won their seats in a lottery. Newt Gingrich appears on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace, then his schedule is a complete question mark. Rick Santorum is already at his home in Virginia, but he promises he’ll reveal a revamped schedule Monday.

And naturally, this could all change overnight. The four campaigns are mercurial in nature. If there’s money in the war chest, and the candidates and their nimble handlers sniff out a wooing opportunity, an instant event is in the works, with the press baying and tweeting in hot pursuit.

DRONING ON

Code Pink and drones, of the military rather than bee variety. Now, there’s an interesting combination. The outspoken feminist group is, along with Occupy Wall Street and 14 anti-war organizations, challenging the remotely piloted crafts and lawmakers who champion them. On the calendar: the “Know Drones Tour,” a public education campaign focusing on “legal, ethical and civil liberties concerns raised by the surge in drone warfare and drone surveillance.”

Armed with large-scale replicas of the MQ-9 Reaper drone, the groups assemble in Brooklyn on Thursday on the first stop in a 17-city tour. Brooklyn, incidentally, is the home of Rep. Edolphus Towns, a Democrat and a member of the bipartisan Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, co-chaired by Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, California Republican, and Henry Cuellar, Texas Democrat.

The lawmakers say their mission is to underscore the “overwhelming value of these systems to the defense, intelligence, homeland security, law enforcement, and the scientific communities.” Visit them here: unmannedsystemscaucus.mckeon. house.gov.

The protesters counter that the caucus was organized to “lobby Congress on behalf of the drone industry,” and will demonstrate in the home districts of 17 of the 55 members of the caucus in New Jersey, Philadelphia, Maryland, Ohio and California. Visit the anti-droners here: knowdrones.com.

SHIRLEY’S MOMENT

It’s reassuring news that a conservative Reagan historian has been named a finalist in the history category for ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards, with the winners to be announced in June at the American Library Association conference. That historian is Craig Shirley; the book is “December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World,” published by Thomas Nelson on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks last year.

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