Connecticut on deck in GOP presidential race

Connecticut Republicans will go to the polls on what could well be the determinate day in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. But it won’t be Connecticut doing the determining. That would be Pennsylvania.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee. It's just a matter of how much he will have to sweat to get it and how much damage will be inflicted on his general election prospects in the process.

Romney swept all three primaries on Tuesday — Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia. Rick Santorum’s only chance for an upset came in Wisconsin, but he fell several percentage points short.

Suggesting that the White House expects the president to face Romney was President Obama’s decision to attack the Republican by name during a speech to an Associated Press luncheon Tuesday. The president contended Romney’s fiscal policies favored the rich at the expense of the middle- and lower-classes.

And the next set of primaries on April 24, including Connecticut, will not be good to Santorum, the last standing conservative challenger to the (despite what he says) moderate Romney. The most recent Quinnipiac poll showed Romney with 42 percent support in Connecticut, with Santorum a distant second at 19 percent, and Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul trailing with 13 percent and 9 percent, respectively. Don’t expect a Connecticut surprise. Romney is also expected to easily win in Delaware, New York and Rhode Island that day.

Which leaves what might be Santorum’s last stand, his home state of Pennsylvania, where he formerly served as senator before being trounced in his 2006 re-election bid. If Santorum cannot win his own state the pressure within the party for him to drop out will continue to increase. At that point it will be hard for Santorum to contend he remains a viable candidate. The Romney campaign will be sure to spend lavishly to deliver a knock out in Pa.

If Santorum wins Pennsylvania, however, the calendar turns in his favor and he could remain a big pain for the frontrunner. Santorum will appeal to more culturally conservative voters in a series of May primaries in North Carolina, West Virginia, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kentucky and, on May 22, Texas.

So Connecticut GOP voters will vote on a big day, but the results of the Connecticut primary won’t be a big deal.

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