The pundits and the politicians have given lots of attention to the April 24 primary in Pennsylvania, but in some ways the New York contest on the same day is more important. A victory there could go a long way toward ending all serious challenges to Mitt Romney as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and a new poll released today shows that Romney is far ahead.
Fifty-four percent of New York Republican voters say they are for the former Massachusetts governor, a large lead over former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's 21 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's 9 percent, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul's 8 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. New York Republicans say Romney has, in effect, locked up the state.
Santorum has pinned his hopes for staying alive in the race by winning his home state of Pennsylvania, and that's very possible, although Romney is now ahead of Santorum in the latest PPP poll there, 42 to 37.
But New York, with 95 delegates, will be the biggest prize of all of the five states that will vote on April 24. The others are Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island.
The problem for Santorum is that he doesn't have nearly the natural support in these states that he does in the South, where he has done well. The number of evangelical Christians and very conservative voters, who have been Santorum's strongest constituencies, is relatively low in the Northeast. Meanwhile, Romney's natural base of moderately conservative voters is relatively strong.