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McCain: Romney will win, Santorum campaign 'basically irrelevant'

April 04, 2012|By Morgan Little
  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo )

Reporting from Washington — While Rick Santorum has vowed to stay in the presidential race despite losing three more primaries to Mitt Romney on Tuesday, the last GOP nominee to seek the White House said Santorum’s campaign is now “basically irrelevant.”

John McCain, the Arizona senator who lost the election to Barack Obama in 2008, said in an interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on Wednesday that “whether Rick Santorum stays in or not, is now basically irrelevant… Mitt has a lot of ground to make up, it’s been a very nasty primary, his unfavorables are high.”

McCain’s comments came the morning after Romney won in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia, pushing his delegate count to more than half of the 1,144 he needs to claim the nomination.

Despite the setbacks, Santorum vowed at a rally in Pennsylvania on Tuesday night to campaign hard over the next few weeks in his home state, which votes on April 24.

“We have now reached the point where it's halftime; half the delegates in this process have been selected. Who’s ready to charge out of the locker room in Pennsylvania for a strong second half?” he said in his post-primary address in Mars, Pa.

But the view that Romney is inevitably going to be the Republican nominee wasn’t hard to spot in his victory speech in Milwaukee as the former Massachusetts governor did not make a single reference to his Republican competitors and focused on President Obama’s record in office. With 80% of Wisconsin voters agreeing with that inevitability, according to exit polls, it’s easy to see why Romney is so confident.

"I'm confident that he will do very well, but the fact is every day that goes by that he's not in the general election campaign mode is a day lost," McCain said.

The notion that it’s important to move on to the general election campaign as soon as possible has not been overlooked by the Romney campaign, particularly given his high negative ratings with the general public.

A Washington Post-ABC news poll, published March 28, found that 50% of adults and 52% of registered voters have an unfavorable impression of Romney, while 53% view Obama favorably.

With three weeks left until the Pennsylvania primary, which also will be the date of primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, New York and Rhode Island, the question now is how much time the Romney campaign will devote to taking on Obama and how much will be spent battling a rival who most Republicans see as slowly fading away.

morgan.little@latimes.com

Original source: McCain: Romney will win, Santorum campaign ‘basically irrelevant’

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