WASHINGTON, March 14 (UPI) -- Mitt Romney's campaign said Wednesday the former Massachusetts governor took a step closer to the Republican presidential nomination after losing in the South.
Even though former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania swept the Alabama and Mississippi primaries Tuesday, Romney's nomination became even more inevitable, Rich Beeson, the campaign's political director, wrote in a strategy memo, The New York Times reported.
"Tuesday's results actually increased Governor Romney's delegate lead, while his opponents only moved closer to their date of mathematical elimination," Beeson said.
Romney Monday predicted a win in the South, but after his third-place finishes he skipped the usual speech and instead issued a statement saying: "With the delegates won tonight, we are even closer to the nomination. Our campaign is on the move and ready to take on President Obama in the fall."
"Despite Santorum wins over the last few days in Kansas, Alabama and Mississippi, Governor Romney's wins over the same period in Wyoming, the Northern Marianas, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, and American Samoa have helped expand his delegate lead, pushing him closer to the nomination," Beeson wrote in his memo.
"With overnight wins in Hawaii and American Samoa, Romney gets largest share of delegates out of yesterday's contests," Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior Romney adviser, tweeted overnight, to which Obama adviser David Axelrod responded: "You know what they say: as America Samoa goes, so goes the nation!"
The Times said Romney's delegate advantage from January is such that a string of losses to either Santorum or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wouldn't challenge his front-runner status.
But too many losses could damage his campaign for the fall, the newspaper said. A Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday showed Romney with a 9-point lead over Santorum -- 33 percent to 24 percent -- but trailing President Obama by 12 points -- 54 percent to 42 percent.
"If you're the front-runner and you keep coming in third, you're not much of a front-runner," Gingrich said after Tuesday's vote, Politico reported.
The campaign moves next to Puerto Rico, Missouri and Illinois.