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Right Turn
Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 04/10/2012

Path to the nomination: Time for Santorum to go

Mitt Romney has gone from “inevitable” to “not inevitable” and now back again. The Pew poll finds:

[R]oughly three-quarters (74%) of Republican and Republican-leaning voters say that Romney will definitely be the Republican Party’s nominee this fall. Only 21% believe a candidate other than Romney still has a chance to become the party’s nominee.
And Republicans’ appetite for the ongoing primary campaign has soured. By a 47% to 36% margin, more say it is a bad [thing] for the party, not good, that the nomination race has not yet been decided and is still going on. Just a month ago, Republicans were split on this question, and as recently as February a majority thought it was a good thing for the party that the nomination had not yet been finalized

Rick Santorum hasn’t gotten the message, however, or at least he isn’t letting on that he has.

Romney is trying the gentle approach. He suspended negative ads yesterday while Santorum was again off the campaign trail to be with his ill daughter, who suffers from a serious genetic defect. Romney was, in effect, saying, “There are some things more important that bludgeoning an opponent.”

There is, as yet, no indication that Santorum agrees, or that he might reevaluate the time spent away from his family when the chance for success is nil. Not even the rationalization that he is “doing this for his country and children” can stand up now that Romney is, for all intents and purposes, the nominee. At this point Santorum either rationalizes that he’s seeding the field for next time or he irrationally believes he can rewrite the delegate math. Or maybe, he is cynically soaking up the limelight as long as the media will pay attention to him.

If the gentle approach doesn’t work, Romney is prepared to steamroller Santorum in his home state.

The local media report: “By purchasing millions of television ad time in Pennsylvania, Mitt Romney hopes to end the Republican presidential race by smashing former Sen. Rick Santorum into oblivion in the April 24 primary. The Romney campaign has already spent just under $1.9 million, according to media trackers in both parties. Sources say the buy will eventually reach $2.9 million.” While waiting for Santorum to return to the campaign, Romney is prepared to relaunch his advertising assault:

Over news footage from election night, a narrator intones “We fired him as senator, why promote him to president?” The ad notes Santorum lost the state by in a “historically embarrassing” 17 percentage points that year. (It was the biggest loss for a Pennsylvania senator since at least 1946.)
In [Allegheny] County, his registered address, he fell to Casey by 30 points. Santorum lost Allegheny in 1994 and 2000 as well, when he was successful, but not by margins as large.

In short, Romney’s campaign is telling Santorum: “We can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way.”

The easy way is for Santorum to withdraw for the sake of family, party and country. His delusional insistence on plowing on well after it became clear he wasn’t going to be the nominee will be mostly forgotten. Romney will say something gracious and Santorum will disappear from the trail. If he sticks to the Romney script, he might even get an nighttime speaking slot at the Republican National Convention.

The hard way is that Santorum runs dry of funds and potentially goes into debt. (“Mr. Santorum’s campaign had just $1.2 million at the end of March, according to Mr. Santorum’s senior campaign strategist, John Brabender. The Santorum campaign plans to air TV ads in Pennsylvania, but it will be a much smaller advertising investment than Mr. Romney’s, Mr. Brabender said,” the Wall Street Journal reports.) He continues to be tarred as the guy who impeded the 2012 nominee’s effort to unseat Obama. And to top it off, he loses his home state. Again.

All across America, high school seniors and their parents are doing pro and con lists (Mount Holyoke or Smith? Arizona State or UNLV?), trying to make an important life decision. Maybe Santorum should do the same. What’s to be gained by staying in, and what is to be lost? If he gets out, does he lose credibility or gain respect? The benefit of such an exercise, if nothing else, would be to return Santorum to reality. It’s about time he showed at least as much maturity as a graduating teenager and make a rational decision based on the way the world is, not as he would like it to be.

By  |  12:30 PM ET, 04/10/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign

 
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