With Santorum out, Romney's in. Liljenquist self-funds while Hatch rakes it in. FreedomWorks vows to fight til the end.
Happy Wednesday. Rick Santorum is taking his sweater vest and leaving the presidential race, tossing Mitt Romney even closer to the official Republican nomination. Santorum had long passed the point where he could win enough delegates to take the GOP nod without a brokered convention. He did not, for the record, endorse Romney as he exited. [WaPost] [CNN] [ABCNews] [FoxNews] And the first day with Romney vs. President Barack Obama starts with a harsh tone. [WSJ]
-> Romney is about to make history as he becomes the first Mormon heading a major party ticket. Plus, we understand that some Utahns really like him. [Trib]
-> With Romney as the GOP nominee, his presence on the ballot could doom down-ticket Democratic candidates in Utah, as Romney will likely pull large numbers of GOP-leaning voters to the polls. [Trib] (More 2012 news after this short break.)
Topping the news: Dan Liljenquist puts down $300,000 of his own cash towards his campaign to challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch -- who's campaign kitty towers over the former state senator at $3.25 million. [Trib]
-> FreedomWorks denies news stories that it's scaling back its efforts in Utah, saying they are going to "see it through." [Trib]
-> After a Medicaid data security breach exposed private information of hundreds of thousands of people, Gov. Gary Herbert vows to fix the problem and restore trust with the public. [Trib] But Democrats, noting this is the second security breach under his watch, are questioning his competency. [ABC4]
2012 Watch: Despite victories, Romney supporters say the hardest part of the presidential race is yet to come. [DNews]
-> Paul Rolly reports that Newt Gingrich's $500 check bounced in March for the ballot filing fee in Utah's primary, and if it's not paid by April 20, the unpaid sum could leave him off the ticket in the Beehive State. [Trib] Best headline after Rolly breaks that news: "Newt to Utah: Drop dead." [Politico]
-> Pat Bagley offers up Romney playing "whack-a-pol" with Santorum. [Trib]
-> The Washington Post looks at the softer side of Mitt, noting that he doesn't often talk about his more altruism. [WaPost]
-> Paul thinks Santorum's exit could give him a boost -- not to win, but to prevent Romney from doing so. [CSMonitor]
-> Santorum reflects on his presidential campaign, conceding the race took a larger toll on his family than it did himself. [ABCNews]
-> With Santorum out of the picture, Mitt Romney carries out an election plan eight years in the making. [Globe]
Happening Today: Juan Diego Catholic High School hosts a debate between Senate Democratic candidates Pete Ashdown and Scott Howell and hosted by the Women's Democratic Club of Utah. Doors open at 6 p.m., debate at 7 p.m. Free and open to the public.
Tweet of the Day: From @politicoroger: "Letterman: 'Because Mitt Romney is a Mormon, he can actually have several vice presidents.'"
And from @BuzzFeed: "#sweatervest is trending."
Happy birthday: To Fred Fife.
In other news: A nursing home trade group has supported Hatch's re-election bid, and some critics are questioning whether its because Hatch, if victorious, could end up chairing the Senate Finance Committee with jurisdiction over billions of Medicare and Medicaid dollars that flow through nursing homes. [AP]
-> The Cache County Republican party chairman is introducing a resolution to call for automatic delegates only for organizing conventions in off-years. [UtahPolicy]
-> Utah AG Mark Shurtleff tackles the problem of human traficking at the start of a four-day symposium to bring awareness on the subject and to honor its victims. [Trib]
-> Union Pacific sees a steady upturn in Utah as the economy heals, and the company expects a modest increase in freight volumes this year. [Trib]
-> A group of property owners are urging the feds to consider alternatives for rerouting the Provo river on their property in order to save an endangered species. [Trib]
Where are they?
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-- Thomas Burr and Laura Schmitz