Yesterday (Tuesday, April 10, 2012), Rich Santorum, the ultra-conservative republican candidate who wanted to be president finally saw what every citizen of the Earth who understands basic math could see: he had no way forward in the GOP primaries to win enough delegates to be his party’s nominee against Barack Obama in November. That dubious honor is clearly going to be Mitt Romney’s for the taking. Santorum “suspended” his campaign.
Just before Santorum did so, the delegate count stood at 661 for Romney vs. 285 for Santorum. Adding to this lopsided ratio is the fact that Santorum had lost his own lead over Romney in Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania. The latest poll showed Romney with 44% vs. Santorum with 40%.
Santorum took the weekend off from campaigning. He concurrently was involved with his sick daughter who had been admitted to a hospital. At yesterday’s press conference Santorum that his family situation was the primary reason for his withdrawal from the race. But he was being less than honest.
In fact, reports indicate that his campaign had already contacted Romney’s campaign days before to let them know that he was abandoning the race. This occurred after polling data above, made available to the Santorum campaign days before being publicly released, indicated that Santorum stood to be severely embarrassed by losing his own home state to Romney in the upcoming April 24th primary.
Had this happened, Santorum’s ability to mount a new presidential campaign in 2016 (assuming Romney does NOT win the November 2012 election), or 2020 (assuming Romney wins in 2012 and again in 2016), would have been permanently damaged beyond repair. Santorum is aware that at 53 years ol, he still has opportunities to run for president. That means we may all have to again endure his anti-gay, anti-birth control, anti-separation of church and state, anti-college, anti-women, anti-evolution, anti-climate-change, anti-abortion, anti-public school system, pro-school prayer, pro-religion in government, pro-big business views once more.
Meanwhile, with Santorum gone, Mitt Romney’s sugar-daddy super-PAC supporters, Karl Rove and the Koch (pronounced Coke, for some bizarre reason that defies explanation) brothers, are preparing a multi-million dollar ad campaign to air against president Obama in several swing states. This first early salvo will cost these folks USD $400 million. That’s a lot of spending this early in the campaign. But the Rove/Koch strategy is, unfortunately, sound. They want to begin to convince undecided independent voters that Obama “isn’t up to the job”, and thus garner support for Romney.
It is also clear that they understand that the Romney/Santorum contest has left some hefty scars on the republican bid to regain the White House and the senate in 2012. After all, the ultra-right wing of the republican party supported Santorum against “non-Christian Mormon” Romney, and Romney’s own liberal statements during past political campaigns are no doubt going to dog him in his campaign to unseat president Obama. At this point, Romney does not have solid support among his own party’s most conservative voters.
That’s the problem that many, including Karl Rove and the sugar-daddy Koch brothers see with Romney. He tried really hard to move as far to the right as possible when he was battling Santorum during the primary process. In doing so, he alienated independent voters who are primarily centrists. Romney and his campaign know they must pivot back to the center to regain those independent voters who ultimately determine elections.
Unfortunately for Romney, in doing so he will further alienate the ultra-conservative wing of his party that he tried so desperately to win over. In fact, before he even says a single word in this post-Santorum era, those ultra-conservatives are already expressing reservations about supporting him!
Back on the sidelines, Newt Gingrich, the cash-starved, divorce-lawyer-challenged, pseudo-ultra-conservative (which he really isn’t) candidate, who has vowed to stay in the race right up to the Republican national convention in Tampa this August, can now only benefit as the only ultra-conservative (according to himself) left standing after Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry have left the race.
And ol’ Newt has nothing to lose, since he has already publicly acknowledged that Romney will most likely be the party’s nominee for president. But much to Romney’s chagrin, Newt will be the recipient of much of the vote that Santorum would have gotten. With several conservative states holding primaries in May, this could present a problem for Romney: How does he pivot back to the center without alienating the ultra-right wing?
The simple math is that he can’t. Those ultra-conservatives didn’t like him to begin with, didn’t trust his claim of support for conservative values, and don’t really believe that Mormonism is a Christian faith. As Mitt is forced back to the center, they’re going to like him even less.
So it comes down to this: Can Romney win without them?
Our money (and our hope) is that he can’t.