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The Rom-inee: Mitt’s Path the Rom-ination

Contrary to what Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich want you to believe, there will NOT be a brokered convention in Tampa this year.

Gingrich’s advisers can keep releasing “memos to victory” and Santorum can keep praying for – as the AP put it – “continued chaos in the field and a fractured GOP arriving at its nominating convention in late summer.” But at this point, all that the two former legislators are really fighting for is a prime time speaking slot at the Republican National Convention.

Mitt Romney will have won the 1,144 delegates required to move on to the general election far before then. The question is not “if,” but “when.”

By the Wall Street Journal’s count, here’s how the delegate hunt stacks up today: Romney has amassed 521 delegates, Santorum has 253 and Gingrich has 136.

Illinois is the next state up for grabs and Romney is leading in the most recent polls. Illinois awards the majority of its delegates by Congressional district, and with more than half of the districts contain parts of Cook, DuPage and Lake counties – home to Chicago, its affluent suburbs and the headquarters of some of the biggest corporations in the United States – Romney should have no problem winning a majority of delegates in the state.

Even if Santorum wins both the ongoing Missouri caucuses this week and the Louisiana primary on Saturday, Romney will still have amassed approximately 600 delegates by the end of the month.

Which brings us to April – a month heavily favoring the former Massachusetts Governor. RNC rules allow for winner-take-all contests after April 1st, and several northeastern states including Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and New York, as well as the District of Columbia, will hold either winner-take-all primaries or their state party rules have provisions that trigger a winner-take-all delegate allocation if a candidate receives a certain percentage of the vote, usually over 50 percent.

Conservatively estimating that Romney wins 170 delegates in these states alone, he’ll be two-thirds of the way to victory by the end of April. If he puts money and time into Wisconsin, Romney also has a shot at sweeping every congressional district and picking up all 42 delegates there, as well. This leaves fewer delegates left for Santorum and Gingrich to fight over in April.

Pennsylvania, the only other contest in April, is a non-binding primary with delegates essentially chosen by the state party. While Santorum will likely win the primary vote in his home state, Romney may actually walk away with the most delegates at the end of the day as the Pennsylvania GOP establishment has backed Romney.

Add winner-take-all New Jersey (50 delegates) and all 172 delegates from another congressional district sweep in California on June 5th to Romney’s column and he only needs another 110-ish delegates from the 12 other remaining contests in May and June to reach 1,144.

It’s not the way the Romney campaign wanted to win the nomination, nor what they envisioned when they first started running this time around, but I think they’ll agree with me that a win in June right now is far better than a win in August.