WASHINGTON – It’s over, and Mitt Romney is going to be the GOP nominee for president.
That’s the growing consensus among Republican National Committee members who will automatically attend the party’s national convention this summer and can support any candidate they choose.
Even some members who support other candidates begrudgingly say the math doesn’t add up for anyone but the former Massachusetts governor.
“I would be surprised if Romney doesn’t get the number he needs,” said Jeff Johnson of Minnesota, who supports former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Bob Bennett of Ohio was more blunt.
“Look, Gov. Romney’s going to be the nominee, and he’s going to have enough votes,” said Bennett, who is publicly neutral but said he supported Romney four years ago.
Romney’s chief rival, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, is pledging to stay in the race, hoping a victory in his home state’s primary April 24 will give his campaign new life. But Santorum has fallen far behind Romney in the race for convention delegates, and RNC members are taking notice, even though most are publicly staying neutral, preferring to let primary voters decide the nominee.
The Associated Press has polled 114 of the 120 superdelegates, party members who can support any candidate for president they choose at the national convention in August, regardless of what happens in primaries or caucuses.
In the latest survey, conducted Tuesday to Friday, Romney has 35 endorsements, far more than anyone else but a modest figure for the apparent nominee. Gingrich has four endorsements, Santorum has two and Texas Rep. Ron Paul has one.
RNC members have been slowly embracing Romney. He picked up 11 new endorsements since the last AP survey a month ago, after the Super Tuesday contests.
Over the course of the campaign, however, Romney methodically has added endorsements from every region of the country.
Romney may be struggling among voters in the South, but he was endorsed by two of the three committee members in Mississippi, Henry Barbour and Jeanne Luckey. Romney even has support from Robert Asher of Pennsylvania.
Santorum’s only endorsements are from members in Iowa and Alabama. In Pennsylvania, state GOP chairman Robert Gleason is publicly neutral.
“I talked to Rick the other day,” Gleason said. “He didn’t even ask me to support him.”
Seventy-two RNC delegates said they were either undecided or not ready to make a public endorsement. Many said they are eager for the nomination fight to end so the party can focus on defeating President Barack Obama in November.
But most said they are reluctant to ask Santorum to quit.
“The decision to get in or get out of a race is an extremely personal decision,” said John Ryder of Tennessee, who is neutral. “He’s got to decide when he thinks it is no longer politically valuable to continue.”
“It is very hard to see any path for Sen. Santorum to the nomination. It is very hard to see any path for Speaker Gingrich to the nomination,” Ryder said. “But they and their supporters have to make that final call.”