By MICHELE SALCEDO, Associated Press
A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Tuesday, April 10:
SANTORUM DROPS OUT: Rick Santorum quit the presidential race, bowing to the inevitable after an improbably resilient run for the White House. His decision cleared the way for Mitt Romney to claim the Republican nomination. With his family standing behind him at the podium, Santorum told supporters that the battle to defeat President Barack Obama would go on, but he pointedly made no mention or endorsement of Romney, the front-running candidate whom Santorum had derided as an unworthy standard-bearer for the GOP. The former Pennsylvania senator stressed that he'd taken his presidential bid farther than anyone expected, winning 11 states and millions of votes. Santorum spoke with Romney before the announcement, a Republican source close to the campaign said, and Romney asked to meet him sometime in the future.
1964 REVISITED: How is 2012 like 1964? The choice facing voters in November is as stark as the milestone 1964 contest between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater. So says President Barack Obama. Maybe he just liked the results of the 1964 election: one of the biggest Democratic landslides in history. The president made his comments during a fundraising blitz in Florida, just before Rick Santorum pulled out of the Republican contest, virtually handing Romney the nomination. Obama used a daylong trip to Florida to call again for Congress to raise taxes on millionaires, a populist pitch on an issue that he hopes will help define the differences with nominee-to-be Romney. He also had three fundraising stops, which were expected to add at least $1.7 million to Obama's sizeable campaign fund.
IT'S ME! NO, IT'S ME! Republican presidential contenders Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are vowing to stay in the race even though Rick Santorum is not. Each man is trying to claim he is the true conservative candidate to beat President Barack Obama in the November election. Santorum's departure Tuesday has pushed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney closer to being the Republican Party's nominee his summer. But Gingrich and Paul say there is still time left for voters to pick a more suitable alternative. Gingrich took to Twitter late Tuesday to call Santorum's departure "the last stand for conservatives" and urge supporters to donate to his campaign. Paul's campaign, meanwhile, says the Texas congressman is "the last — and real — conservative alternative" to Romney.
ROMNEY PICKS UP ANOTHER ENDORSEMENT: Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has endorsed front-runner Mitt Romney's bid for the Republican presidential nomination. At a statehouse news conference, Branstad said it's become clear that Romney will be the party's nominee. The Iowa governor added that the time had come for all Republicans to unite behind the former Massachusetts governor and focus on defeating President Barack Obama.
I KNOW YOU ARE, BUT WHAT AM I?: One candidate is worth up to $250 million, ran a private equity firm and plans to build an elevator for the cars at his beach house. The other is the former head of the Harvard Law Review who became a best-selling author and millionaire and now lives in the world's most famous mansion — 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. But don't expect Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama to embrace their elite status. In a campaign year when populism sells, they are trying to stick the rich guy label on each other, making clear that being wealthy and privileged is not necessarily a political asset with the uncertain economy. The former Massachusetts governor has faced withering criticism from Democrats who try to paint him as a ruthless financier who has paid lower tax rates unavailable to typical middle-class families. Romney, meanwhile, has pushed to paint the president as a detached liberal who doesn't fully grasp the depths of the nation's economic woes.
BY THE NUMBERS:
A Washington Post-ABC News poll on the middle class finds:
4 in 10: The number of Americans who say they belong to the middle class
50 percent would vote for Obama
46 percent would vote for Romney
Of those struggling to remain middle class:
35 percent support Obama
58 percent support Romney
51 percent cite gas prices as a serious hardship
64 percent don't see the economy in their area improving
49 percent say jobs are difficult to find
More than 75 percent disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy
53 percent say that's a major reason to oppose him in November
Of those who describe themselves as "comfortable" or "moving up" beyond it:
59 percent support Obama
39 percent support Romney
17 percent see gas prices as a serious problem
37 percent say the economy isn't improving in their area
23 percent say jobs are very difficult to find.