WASHINGTON — Republican party leaders are starting to rally around Mitt Romney, but it’s not exactly a stampede of support for the expected GOP presidential nominee.
With Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich out of the race, Romney is his party’s pick to take on President Barack Obama this fall, barring a catastrophe. While Romney talks like the nominee, the former Massachusetts governor has work to do to round up enough convention delegates to make it official.
Romney has 867 delegates, according to The Associated Press count. That’s 277 short of the 1,144 he needs to win the nomination. Romney could get about 100 delegates from Tuesday’s primaries in North Carolina, Indiana and West Virginia, if he dominates the voting in all three states.
But unless he persuades a lot more Santorum and Gingrich delegates to switch allegiances, Romney might not clinch until the Texas primary May 29.
“He’s the projected candidate,” said Peggy Lambert, a member of the Republican National Committee from Tennessee who endorsed Romney last week. “Let’s go ahead and get this thing over with. Let’s get as many delegates as we can.”
Santorum and Gingrich have said they will help Romney defeat Obama, but neither has released his delegates to vote for Romney at the national convention in August. Santorum has 257 delegates and Gingrich has 130. In interviews during the past week, many said they were reluctant to back Romney without guidance from their former candidates.