Fully 98 delegates are at stake and Romney’s probably going to win nearly all of them. The polls in Washington and Maryland close at 8 p.m. ET, but don’t worry about that. It’s a foregone conclusion that Romney will win both and, maybe, crack 50 percent in doing so. (PPP’s Maryland poll from a few days ago had him ahead of Santorum 52/27.) Wisconsin, where the polls close at 9 p.m. ET, is shakier but that looks like a Romney win too. At last check, PPP had it 43/36, which is right in line with where most of the polls of the state have been over the past month. Santorum’s overperformed his polling before on election night so there’s a slim, slim chance for one last “Not Romney” hurrah, but this is where Mitt likely starts to wrap things up. Says RCP political guru Sean Trende:
What about Tuesday night? Here we are beginning to see signs of movement. The Maryland polling suggests that Romney should receive about 56 percent of the three-way vote, while [my demographic] model suggested 49 percent would be more in line with other states.
Similarly, Wisconsin should be a close race — akin to Ohio — with Romney receiving 43 percent of the vote. For a while, it appeared that Santorum would be exceeding expectations there. But Romney now leads by about eight points, with polls suggesting he should receive around 49 percent of the three-way vote. Again, this suggests an over-performance of about six-seven points.
If this happens, taken together with Illinois and Maryland, we might conclude that Romney really has managed to break out of his demographic rut, at least in the Midwest and Northeast. This is significant, given the large cache of delegates at stake in those regions (though many of these states have already voted).
In other words, the usual rules of the race — Romney wins urbanites, Santorum wins evangelicals, etc — seem to have relaxed a bit as Republicans slowly reconcile themselves to a Romney nomination. Tonight’s results could be further evidence of that. Santorum still leads by six points in his home state of Pennsylvania but I’ll be curious to see how those polls shift if Mitt cleans up today, and especially if he does better with rural voters than expected. Romney already has four paid staffers working PA and will send lots more tomorrow in hopes of finishing off Santorum there on April 24. If Santorum’s lead is already down to mid-single-digits, what’ll it be after Romney hits the trail there and starts spending ad dollars and gets the positive buzz of a trifecta in WI, MD, and DC tonight?
Update: Bad tidings for Team Sweater Vest from the early Wisconsin exit polls: Evangelical turnout is slightly down from 2008 and more than 80 percent of voters expect Romney to be the nominee. But what about Santorum’s withering attacks on RomneyCare and ObamaCare? Quote:
Though Rick Santorum tried to make the case in Wisconsin that Mitt Romney’s record on health care “uniquely disqualified” him to take on Mr. Obama on the issue, Republican primary voters are closely divided in whom they trust more to handle the issue. Almost a third trust Mr. Romney more to handle health care policy; almost as many have more confidence in Mr. Santorum’s abilities in this field.
That may reflect Mr. Romney’s particular situation when it comes to the federal health care law that came under intense scrutiny at the Supreme Court last week.
According to the WSJ, Romney’s also beating Santorum 51/38 among voters who decided in just the last few days. A quote to ponder from a Wisconsin voter while we wait for more: “I very much hope that he gets the nomination and we get this thing settled soon. These guys are kind of tearing each other apart in the process. I think it’s a circular firing squad at this point.”
Update: Annnnnnnnd here’s how the Wisconsin Democrats spent their day.
Update: To no one’s surprise, Maryland and Washington are called promptly for Romney at 8 p.m. Stand by for exit polls.
Update: Here’s the Maryland exit poll. As Trende guessed, we’re seeing some demographic surprises. Santorum’s supposed to be the blue-collar candidate, and yet:
He’s also supposed to be the conservative candidate, and yet:
This is the one that’ll get attention tomorrow, though, assuming that these numbers hold (exit poll data will be adjusted throughout the evening):
Per the exits, Romney’s right on the cusp of 50 percent in the state.
Update: We’ve got nearly an hour until Wisconsin results and then probably an hour after that before the state is called, so chew on this important and worrisome poll data from Rasmussen in the meantime. Dude, I’m nervous:
A majority of Wisconsin voters now support the effort to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker.
A new Rasmussen Reports statewide survey shows that, if the recall election was held today, 52% of Likely Voters would vote to recall Governor Walker and remove him from office. Forty-seven percent (47%) would vote against the recall and let him continue to serve as governor.
Update: And that’s that: Fox News calls Wisconsin for Romney. Here’s the exit poll. Santorum did manage to win very-low-income voters and evangelicals (narrowly) this time, but Romney won conservatives and strong tea-party supporters. The end is near for Team Sweater Vest. And from what I’m hearing on Twitter, he may be close to acknowledging it: Apparently he referenced Reagan’s 1976 campaign, in which he finished second to Gerald Ford, in his concession speech. Is he shifting focus to 2016 now?
Update: Nope, turns out I’m wrong. Patrick Ishmael e-mails to say that Santorum’s been using the Reagan ’76 line for a few weeks at least.