The Hill’s Pundits Blog  —  March 19, 2012

Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich: Mitt Romney’s new BFFs!

By Peter Fenn – 03/19/12 01:52 PM ET

Who would have thought? Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich are Mitt Romney’s secret weapons. After all they have been through this past year, all the primary fights and negative ads, all the debates, all the stated desire for a non-Romney candidate, these two are delivering the nomination to Romney on a silver platter.

The numbers are pretty clear now — Santorum cannot win the nomination while the two of them remain on the ballot; he might not be able to win it anyway. Santorum had a shot to stop Romney over these past two months if he was able to go mano-a-mano, but the two stubborn egos, Newt and Ron, would have none of it.

Now, if you look at tomorrow’s Illinois poll numbers, you can see the demise of the Santorum campaign. In four surveys, Public Policy Polling, Rasmussen, Fox and the Chicago Tribune/WGN, the combined percentages for Gingrich and Paul total from 19 percent to 22. That is very consistent. And that is enough to make sure that Romney has a pretty good chance of beating Santorum.

The anti-Romney vote has always been very serious and substantial, among the more conservative voters, young people, evangelicals, under-$100,000 Republicans. The more it is split, the better for Romney, obviously.

With a victory for Romney in Illinois and with the two also-rans and their super-PACs keeping on keeping on, it sure looks like the train has left the station for Romney.

We knew Paul was pretty much in the tank for Romney, but who would have predicted that Gingrich would join him as a Best Friend Forever? Politics, indeed, makes strange bedfellows.