Primary home stretch: Romney wins New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana, New Mexico, and California

Tuesday night brought the last big round of primary elections in Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota, and the big one, California.  After Tuesday night only Utah remains, on June 26.

Mitt Romney formally won enough delegates for the Republican presidential nomination during the previous round of primaries, stealing some thunder from what once might have been the last chance to avoid the fabled ???brokered convention.???

Romney was pulling over 81 percent of the vote when New Jersey was called, at just after 9:00 p.m. EST.  He notched a similar win among California’s huge pool of delegates.  A much more vigorous protest vote for Ron Paul and Rick Santorum appeared in South Dakota, with about 12 percent support posted for each when the state was called for Romney.  Montana and New Mexico handed Romney 71 and 75 percent of their votes, respectively.

Further down the political ladder, California debuted a curious new ???top two??? primary system, a step beyond the open primaries found in some other states.  Under the ???top two??? approach, every candidate from every party runs in the same primary contest.  The Number One and Two contenders move on to a face-off in the general election.  Combined with redistricting, the new approach produced two congressional races in which incumbents from the same party faced each other.

New Jersey featured a House primary in which two Democrat incumbents, Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell, were shoved into a face-off by redistricting.  To make things more interesting, President Obama quietly supported Rothman, while former President Bill Clinton openly endorsed Pascrell.  (???Quietly supported??? means Obama invited Rothman to the White House so the two could be photographed talking together.  At least that???s a step up from the go-get-em-tiger Tweet the President offered Wisconsin recall candidate Tom Barrett.)

The race proved to be close, prompting millions of dollars in campaign spending by both candidates.  Clinton’s candidate, Bill Pascrell, ended up giving a decisive thumping to Obama’s Rothman, winning 61-39 percent.