WASHINGTON -- After a three-month struggle, Mitt Romney edged into the mop-up phase of the race for the Republican presidential nomination Wednesday, buoyed by Newt Gingrich's decision to scale back his campaign to the vanishing point and Rick Santorum's statement that he would take the No. 2 spot on the party ticket in the fall.
Romney campaigned by phone for support in next week's Wisconsin primary while he shuttled from California to Texas on a fundraising trip, praising Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker for "trying to rein in the excesses that have permeated the public services union." The governor faces a recall election in June after winning passage of state legislation vehemently opposed by organized labor.
Seven months before Election Day, there was ample evidence of a preparation gap with the Democrats.
A spokesman at the Republican National Committee said the party had recently opened campaign offices in three states expected to be battlegrounds this fall and would soon do the same in seven more.
By contrast, Obama's re-election campaign has 18 offices in Florida, nine in Michigan, 12 in Ohio, 13 in Pennsylvania and seven in Nevada, according to officials. While Romney was campaigning in last winter's Iowa caucuses, Democrats claimed to have made 350,000 calls to voters as part of an early organizational effort.
Not that Romney is leaving the primary wars behind. He and Restore Our Future, a super PAC that supports him, were outspending Santorum and his allies on television by a ratio of more than 4-to-1.
Santorum is campaigning across Wisconsin as an ally of Walker's.
"I'm excited to stand here with Gov. Walker. Not only should he not be recalled, he should be re-elected," Santorum said in LaCrosse, Wis.
For the first time, Santorum seemed to acknowledge publicly Monday that his quest for the presidential nomination may end in failure.
Asked in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network whether he would consider being Romney's running mate, he said: "Of course. I'll do whatever is necessary to help our country."
Gingrich took a more obvious step toward the campaign exit. He pushed out his campaign manager and trimmed his staff by one-third and will cut back on personal campaign time in primary and caucus states in favor of contacting unpledged delegates.
AP's tally shows Romney with 568 delegates, Santorum 273 and Gingrich 135.