The mechanics of a top-flight presidential campaign aimed at unseating President Obama are taking shape.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) announced Wednesday morning that it is formally backing Mitt Romney, following his decisive victories in all five of Tuesday’s presidential primaries. The RNC and the Romney campaign had already recently begun to raise funds jointly, but now the two entities are officially synchronizing their activities more fully.
“Governor Romney’s strong performance and delegate count at this stage of the primary process has made him our party’s presumptive nominee,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “In order to maximize our efforts I have directed my staff at the RNC to open lines of communication with the Romney campaign.”
Mr. Priebus had held off referring to Romney as the “presumptive nominee” until now. And even though Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is still in the nominating race – the lone challenger, now that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is expected to withdraw – Romney’s lead in convention delegates is so massive that hedging seems pointless. More important, given the challenge of trying to unseat a well-funded and well-organized Mr. Obama, Romney and the RNC have no time to lose.
Technically, Romney still does not have the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination, but he is well on his way. He has 844 delegates, including “superdelegates” who have announced a preference, according to the Associated Press. Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who dropped out of the race on April 10, has 260 delegates. Mr. Gingrich has 137, and Congressman Paul has 79. Mr. Santorum has not yet endorsed Romney or released his delegates.
As the Romney campaign expands its operations and coordinates more fully with the RNC, there will be more intersecting of staffs. According to the RNC, Brian Jones, a former RNC communications director and current Romney senior adviser, will serve as the chief liaison between the Romney campaign and the RNC. Ward Baker will serve as a liaison between the political and field teams. Kevin Madden, a former Romney spokesman, will advise the RNC on communications.
In addition, two longtime Romney allies, Ben Ginsberg and Ron Kaufman, will serve as liaisons with the RNC. Mr. Ginsberg was national counsel for Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. Mr. Kaufman is the Republican national committeeman from Massachusetts.
As Romney sets out to establish a national operation to rival Obama’s, his biggest challenge may come at the state level. Some state Republican parties have struggled with organization and fundraising. Early in the 2012 nominating process, two states suffered from such poor organization in their caucuses –Iowa and Nevada – that their state party chairs resigned soon after. Both states are critical battlegrounds in the general election.