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Romney campaign says losing nomination would take 'act of God'

BOSTON -- Mitt Romney's campaign gathered the national press corps in their campaign war room this morning to deliver a simple message: It would take an "act of God" for any candidate not named Mitt Romney to win the Republican nomination.

The Boston-based campaign projected confidence in Romney's ability to win the nomination given the emerging delegate math in the campaign following last night's Super Tuesday contests.

"We will get to 1,144 whether it's on someone else’s timeline, or on our timeline," said one top Romney aide. "We will get to 1,144 and be the Republican nominee."

The background briefing with several members of the campaign's senior staff was emblematic of Romney's campaign: no grand flourishes, just business, math and message, with aides asserting the calendar was ill-suited to any candidate looking to eat into Romney's delegate lead.

Looking ahead to a primary calendar where the only remaining true winner-take-all states appear to favor Romney -- Delaware, Utah, New Jersey and the District of Columbia (where Rick Santorum is not on the ballot) -- the advisers tried to slowly close the door on Santorum and Newt Gingrich, who they said had little to no opportunity left to close the delegate gap.

Other delegate-heavy states like California and Texas (the latter thought to be less friendly to Romney) are winner-take-all by congressional district, which all but guarantees their large delegate hauls' being split among candidates, rather than awarding a large haul to a single GOP hopeful. One Romney aide said one would have to "bend the laws of reality" to see Gingrich or Santorum making a significant dent in Romney's lead in those states.

"There’s not a lot of Floridas left out there, no more Arizonas, no more Virginias. There’s just no more big chunks of delegates to go get. So whether it's a one-, two-, three- or four-way race, you’re still going to have people bunched up there," said one Romney aide, dismissing a question about whether a smaller field might make Romney's path more difficult.

Romney captured 65 percent of the available delegates on Super Tuesday, pushing his total to 339 pledged delegates, according to NBC News projections, out of the 1,144 needed to secure the nomination. A campaign spokesperson also said the campaign had raised $11.5 million in February, yet again outpacing every other Republican candidate. They did not, however, disclose the amount of cash left on hand after bruising and expensive contests in Michigan and Ohio.

Taken together, the campaign hopes math, if not ideology, will help their candidate consolidate a Republican base still resistant to his nomination in some quarters. Romney has thus far failed to win a culturally Southern state (Virginia and Florida notwithstanding) or to convince the self-identified "very conservative" Republican voters that he is the man best suited to challenge President Obama in the fall.

One aide argued that even if Romney never fully wins over rural conservatives, he would end up with their support in November, in part because such voters are the most likely to be strongly opposed to the president's re-election.

Romney aides dismissed the persistent narrative of their candidate as a weak front-runner, unable to connect and failing to garner the support of independent voters -- noting that he won states as diverse as Vermont, Alaska and Ohio last night, and pointing to polling from 1992, which showed then-Gov. Bill Clinton's favorability ratings upside down.

"If I remember correctly, he served two terms," said one aide.

Asked directly when they would begin working behind the scenes to convince the Gingrich and Santorum campaigns to see the math their way, one Romney adviser responded bluntly: "Now."