Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks about energy during… (Jake Danna Steves, Scranton…)
Reporting from Los Angeles — After a rare three-day break from the campaign trail, Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney said he welcomed rival Newt Gingrich’s recent promise to support him at the Republican convention this summer if Romney reaches the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch his party’s nomination.
The former House speaker’s comments over the weekend on Fox News Sunday were his most generous to date and another sign that many Republicans are coming to terms with the fact that Romney is likely to be the party’s nominee. Earlier this year, Gingrich and Rick Santorum had vowed to continue fighting through the convention – stirring fears of internal party squabble at the convention that could enhance President Obama’s chance of re-election.
But Gingrich said on Fox News Sunday that it was clear that Romney was most likely to be the nominee and has said he had “done a very good job of building a very substantial machine” capable of defeating Obama. He acknowledged that his own campaign is in debt and operating “on a shoestring.” During Monday’s radio interview, Romney told conservative talk show host Mike Huckabee that he was not surprised by Gingrich’s remarks because all the candidates are pretty “open eyed” about where they stand in the race and that “in all likelihood” he would win the delegates needed to close out the race.
“We have had 35 contests in states, and of course the islands, and it’s kind of hard for anybody to get the delegates to pass me at this stage, so it looks pretty good,” Romney told Huckabee in an interview. “But you know, the other guys are still in there so we’re going to keep on campaigning in each of the early primary states until we have the nomination wrapped up.”
Romney said while he and Gingrich speak from time to time, he has spoken less to Santorum, who has vowed to continuing battling on as they head into upcoming contests in New York and Pennsylvania, the state that Santorum represented as a congressman and senator until losing his seat in 2006. Romney has amassed some 660 delegates, more than twice as many as Santorum (281 delegates) and many more than Gingrich (135 delegates) and fourth contender Texas Congressman Ron Paul (51 delegates).
Santorum canceled private campaign events and meetings Monday after the hospitalization of his daughter Bella, who suffers from a congenital condition known as Trisomy 18. In deference to Bella’s condition, the Romney campaign pulled an attack ad that was set to air Monday in Pennsylvania.
A Santorum spokeswoman said Bella is doing better, even though she is still in the hospital, and that Santorum plans to return to the trail Tuesday. Santorum is scheduled to resume his public schedule Tuesday morning with a rally in Bedford, Pa.
Romney told Huckabee during the radio show that he had spent a “delightful” Easter weekend in La Jolla with his wife, three of his sons and 11 of the couple’s grandchildren. Gathering for the first weekend off together since Christmas, Romney said the family went swimming, surfing and held their annual Easter egg roll on a neighbor’s lawn.
Huckabee joked that after having 11 grandchildren under one roof, Romney was probably the only candidate ready to get back on the campaign trail. “We need a vacation from the vacation, there’s no question about that,” the candidate said, laughing.
Seema Mehta in Bedford, Pa. contributed to this report.