Romney set to build lead on April 24

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addresses a crowd at a campaign event, in Broomall, Penn., Wednesday, April 4, 2012. AP Photo/Steven Senne

AP Photo/Steven Senne

This article originally appeared on RealClearPolitics.

(CBS News) -- With the next batch of Republican primaries still two weeks away, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are locked in a close battle for one of the states voting that day, Pennsylvania.

Santorum has indicated that he must win on his home turf to remain viable. But even if he prevails there, Romney appears likely to expand significantly his already substantial delegate lead with dominant showings in Connecticut, New York, Delaware, and Rhode Island -- the four other northeastern states holding their primaries on April 24. Here's how the outcome in each is shaping up for the front-runner:

Connecticut

There are few states better suited for Romney to run up the score against his Republican opponents than Connecticut, whose GOP electorate is well-off, well-educated, and relatively moderate on social issues -- traits that point to an easy victory for the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts.

In addition, Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola said that the other Republican candidates were mounting nothing more than a "token effort" in the state.

Connecticut has 25 delegates to award on Election Day. Three will be allocated to the winner of each of the state's five congressional districts. The other 10 will be doled out proportionally based on the statewide vote count, unless one candidate reaches the 50-percent threshold and is thus assigned all 10.

Romney appears to have a solid shot at running the table.

"I think Gov. Romney's in a commanding position in Connecticut," Labriola said. "I think he's poised to win our primary, and every effort is being made such that he receives over 50 percent of the vote, so that he would sweep the delegate count."

Still, a Quinnipiac poll released late last month showed Romney cruising to an easy victory in Connecticut but falling short of the 50-percent threshold by eight points.

With a clean sweep within reach, Romney is scheduled to stump in Hartford on Wednesday. Additionally, Ann Romney will be the keynote speaker at the state party's annual dinner in Stamford on the eve of the primary.

New York

Only Texas and California offer more Republican delegates than New York's 95, but the Empire State has seen barely a ripple of presidential political activity, other than the seemingly nonstop Manhattan fundraising blitzes.

Almost the entire state Senate delegation has lined up behind Romney, who appears to be in a commanding position in both the New York City area and elsewhere in the state.

The Romney campaign has been on alert for any sign of a burgeoning Tea Party presence that might coalesce behind another candidate or indications of shenanigans in the overwhelmingly Democratic congressional districts, but so far, the front-runner's campaign is breathing relatively easy. (He held a commanding 54 percent of the vote in a recent Quinnipiac poll of New York Republicans.)

Romney appears poised to win in each of the state's 29 congressional districts (gaining two delegates in each) and break the 50 percent threshold that would allow him to take home all of the 34 delegates that are awarded according to the statewide vote. (The state's other three delegates are top party leaders.)

"It's certainly a goal and one that we want to achieve, but I don't think any of us is overconfident," former New York Congressman Rick Lazio, who is helping to coordinate Romney's New York operation, said of breaking the 50 percent threshold in the state.

Rhode Island

Romney should be a shoe-in to win the majority of Rhode Island's 19 delegates, but he isn't taking any chances.

The former Massachusetts governor is scheduled to hold a town-hall meeting Wednesday night in Warwick, where his campaign hopes he will be greeted by friendly questions from voters who have long known him well.

Romney's competitors do have an opportunity to reach the 15 percent viability threshold that would give them something to show for their efforts in a state that proportionally allocates its convention delegates.

The Rhode Island GOP's executive director told the Providence Journal that he expects Santorum and Newt Gingrich to visit the state, probably next week, but neither has events listed yet on his public schedule.

Delaware

Of the four states other than Pennsylvania holding primaries on April 24, Delaware is the one where Romney might have some grounds for concern.

It is, after all, the place where unknown Tea Party-backed insurgent Christine O'Donnell resoundingly defeated nine-term congressman Mike Castle -- who embodied the Republican establishment that Romney now owns -- in the 2010 GOP Senate primary.

Though she may be best remembered for her ill-fated general election campaign, in which her TV ad assertion that she was "not a witch" was not enough to stave off a 17-point general election defeat, O'Donnell's win over Castle showed what can happen in a state whose Republican primary electorate is small and replete with conservative activists.

Gingrich, who has otherwise become a marginal figure in the race, has eyed Delaware as his best chance to pick up delegates on April 24. He and his wife, Callista, have campaigned extensively in the First State over the last couple of weeks, and the candidate drew enthusiastic crowds at events in the conservative southern region this past Thursday.

"Mr. Gingrich's main strength is the fact that he views Delaware as important and viable and he chose to come here," said Delaware Republican Party Communications Director Laurie Bick. "Delaware is a small state in some people's eyes, but we value people who value us and we enjoy having candidates come."

But Romney has won the lion's share of endorsements there, as he has done just about everywhere else, and a defeat for him in Delaware's winner-take-all primary would be a surprise.

On Tuesday, he will campaign in Wilmington, which sits in the more moderate and highly populated northern part of the state, while Gingrich plans to return to Delaware for events on Wednesday.

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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.

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