In Rick Santorum’s rambling, defiant speech tonight, he vowed to fight on to win in Pennsylvania and then into May. He insisted the people of Pennsylvania know him (even though they knew enough to dump him by 18 points in 2006) and it was only “halftime” in the race. Virtually no one other than Santorum would utter such preposterous lines, especially after Mitt Romney swept all three races in Maryland, D.C. and Wisconsin in convincing fashion. A brief mention of the tired “Etch a Sketch” trope was a reminder how tone deaf and churlish a pol he can be.
Romney is the undisputed choice of the Republican electorate. Exit polls in Maryland showed Romney winning among virtually all segments of the electorate, whether income, religious affiliation, geography, ideology or marital status. It was much the same in Wisconsin. For example, he won among Republicans by a 51 to 37 percent margin. He won among strong supporters of the Tea Party. In sum, he has established himself as the certain nominee.
Unlike Santorum’s wandering remarks, Romney’s punchy speech focused on the general election. An obviously relieved Romney went after President Obama’s record with no-holds barred:
Under this President’s watch, more Americans have lost their jobs than during any other period since the Depression. Millions have lost their homes, and a record number of Americans are living in poverty. And the most vulnerable have been hurt the most - over 30% of single moms are struggling in poverty. New business startups are at the lowest level in 30 years, and our national debt is at a record high. And when you drive home tonight and stop at a gas station, just take a look at the prices and ask yourself, “Four more years?”
He developed what is sure to be his theme for the general election: a choice between Obama’s “government centered” society and his own vision of an “opportunity” society. He chided the president for his anti-business bias, saying that favoring a strong economy but going after business was “like saying you like omelettes but you don’t like eggs” He dinged Obama for wanting to raise taxes not only to pay for the ever-growing state but for “social justice” (“spread the wealth around,” he said quoting Obama’s revealing slip in 2008). And he declared that “government must be smaller and have strict limits placed on its power. Obamacare violates both principles. I will repeal it.”
He was in the mode of unifying and uplifting a party that has seen a divisive race stretch out, in part due to a calendar with back-loaded delegates and in part due to an ungracious opponent:
We have always been the country where dreamers build dreams and where one dream helps launch another. And if those dreamers are rewarded with prosperity, we view that as a reason others would be encouraged to dream big as well.
These last few years have been difficult, made worse by mistakes and failures of leadership.
But if the hill before us is a little steeper we have always been a nation of big steppers.
In this last year, I have been all over this country, from student union cafeterias to kitchen tables, from factory break rooms to boardrooms, and I’ve heard frustration and anger but rarely hopelessness. Many Americans have given up on this President but they haven’t ever thought about giving up. Not on themselves. Not on each other. And not on America.
We have a sacred duty to restore the promise of America. And we will do it. We will do it because we believe in America.
Romney has his work cut out for him in the general, but with tonight’s wins the only question in the primary is whether Santorum will get out before or after the Pennsylvania primary.