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Connecticut's upcoming primary shaping up as a big victory for Romney

Hartford - The last uncertainty for Connecticut Republicans is not whether Mitt Romney will win the state's presidential primary on April 24, but by how large a margin.

The former neighboring governor has a commanding lead in the national delegate count for the GOP nomination. He's far ahead of next-best challenger Rick Santorum, and long out of sight of Newt Gingrich and Congressman Ron Paul.

All four candidates will be on the ballot in two weeks when Connecticut primary voters join those in New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Delaware in going to the polls.

Connecticut has 28 delegates to the Republican National Convention in August, and 25 of them will be decided on primary results.

Under new state party rules, three of the at-play delegates are awarded to the winner in each of the state's five congressional districts. The other 10 delegates would be distributed proportionally based on the statewide vote, unless a candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, in which case he would get all of the 10.

The state GOP replaced the old winner-take-all system with this new delegate calculus to better attract candidates to campaign here if a race gets tight. But this year may well produce a Romney-take-all primary in Connecticut.

"We fully expect that Mitt will win all five congressional districts - so those 15 (delegates) are pretty much in the bag," said Tom Foley, the former ambassador and Republican gubernatorial candidate, who is chairman of the Romney campaign's steering committee in Connecticut. "And the remaining 10, we believe he will get all of them."

In regards to the national delegate race, "I think it's a near mathematical certainty that Governor Romney will be our nominee," Jerry Labriola Jr., chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, said Friday.

Labriola is one of three "superdelegates" who are free to support any candidate at the convention. The others are the state's Republican National Committee representatives: state Rep. John Frey, R-Ridgefield, and Pat Longo of Wilton.

Last month, a Quinnipiac University poll of registered Republicans placed Romney in the lead with 42 percent, followed by Santorum at 19 percent, Gingrich at 13 percent and 9 percent for Ron Paul.

In a Quinnipiac match-up between Romney and President Obama, registered voters chose Obama 53 percent to 37 percent.

During the 2008 campaign, Romney finished a distant second in the state's primary to Sen. John McCain, the eventual nominee.

This year, Romney is the only Republican candidate with a campaign presence in the state. He also has a financial edge, having received nearly $2.7 million in donations from Connecticut residents, according to campaign finance records. Paul comes in second, with about $230,000 from state residents.

"Paul gets grassroots support," said Marc Guttman of East Lyme, a Ron Paul enthusiast. "Most of his donations are small donations from individuals."

Romney's wife, Ann, is scheduled as the keynote speaker at the state GOP's annual Prescott Bush Dinner, which happens the night before the primary. The candidate himself visited Stamford last month for a private fundraiser and may make a campaign stop in the state before the primary.

"We're trying to get him here, and I know he'd like to come here if his schedule permits," said Foley, who is friends with Romney and first met him in 1979, when he was interviewed by him for a job at Bain Capital. Foley ended up working for McKinsey & Co., a Bain competitor.


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