Rick? It’s over:
MARS, Pa. ”” Imagine a footrace, but only one runner is on the track.
That essentially is the situation for Rick Santorum. He is all suited up and ready to go. ”œThe clock starts tonight,” he told supporters here Tuesday night, hoping to start fresh after losses in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
But as far as Mitt Romney, his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination, is concerned, that clock has run out.
If you look at the results from Wisconsin last night, if Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich had dropped out of the race…hell, if just GINGRICH left the race, then Santorum probably takes Wisconsin. This would have made Santorum an actual credible threat to Romney despite the slack in delegates.
Indeed, if Gingrich and Paul dropped out and gave all their delegates to Santorum, he’d still be seventy short right now, and looking at a yawning four hundred delegate gap by May 1. Not insurmountable, to be sure, but that’s only if Gingrich and Paul drop out. Right now, his deficit is insurmountable.
See, Santorum and Romney have this odd dynamic working: If the evangelical Christian vote is over 50%, Santorum wins. If it’s under 50, Romney wins. Wisconsin would have been the first state to flip that (Iowa came close).
Santorum is running into a roadblock in April: the only primaries from here on out are in the Northeast, prime Romney territory.
Indeed, Romney can embarass the hell out of Santorum by taking Pennsylvania. This means two things:
1) It will be the second straight statewide election in his home state that Santorum loses and
B) It takes Santorum out of consideration for the Veep nom. After all, do you want someone on your ticket who can’t even guarantee his home state?
And now that brings the illogic of a continuing Santorum campaign into sharp focus. If you presume that Santorum is taking this to a floor fight– his best case scenario is that Romney enters the convention with only 1122 committed delegates and 22 short of the magic number, but this excludes super- and uncommitted delegates– then the logical conclusion is Santorum is running for reasons other than the nomination. The logical alternative is to show he’s a capable fighter even against long odds (which the GOP faces in spades this year) and an almost automatic VP nominee.
Losing Pennsylvania negates that logic, and makes Santorum’s campaign futile. Santorum holds a lead in Pennsylvania, but the momentum is with Romney. Seven points, down from double digits just two weeks ago.
Romney swipes Pennsylvania and it’s over. Santorum keeps Pennsylvania, and there’s still hope for cutting a deal at the convention.
This is because once May hits, the field suddenly turns uphill for Romney: Oregon, California and New Jersey are the only non-Bible Belt states to be contested after this month end. And even there, Romney looks to clear 1,130 delegates even if he wins those three states and misses out on every delegate in every single other one.
Meanwhile, Santorum would still have Gingrich and Paul to weigh him down. It’s basically a no-win proposition without them: it’s a disaster with them.
Which leaves the rationale of a Santorum campaign murky at best. It’s conceivable he’s running the way Mike Huckabee ran in 2008, to provide a voice for the religious right thru as much of the campaign as possible.
And then cash in with a cushy FOX News gig. Given Sarah Palin’s new contract with The Today Show— not that a formal contract has been announced, but she appeared in several capacities on the show including the “panel of experts” on cultural stories– FOX will likely cut ties with her shortly, and they’ve already lost Glenn Beck, They’re running short of what I’ll euphemistically call “talent.”
However, Santorum also risks an awful lot of backlash that Huckabee did not receive. See, Huckabee’s quixotic quest was masked by the fact that a) he beat McCain in states McCain expected to win, and b) he had cover from Romney himself, who had little problem spending himself into oblivion to pursue the nomination four years ago.
Santorum, as presumed second place finisher, has no such shadow to duck into. Should it be perceived that the primary campaign exhausted Romney’s funds to spend on the general (Obama has a war chest of hundreds of millions and growing), then Santorum will be blamed.
In essence, Santorum will walk into Tampa asking Romney “Did I fire five bullets or six?”