wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2

Most Read: Opinions

direct signup

Today’s Opinions poll

Should Congress deal with the immigration crisis -- tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors at the border -- before its August recess?

Submit
Next
Review your answers and share
Right Turn
Posted at 04:45 PM ET, 03/07/2012

Santorum can’t banish Newt. He’ll have to beat him.

This post has been updated

No sooner did the vote-counting stop early Wednesday morning than Rick Santorum’s super PAC began the futile effort to chase Newt Gingrich from the field. In a press release, the super PAC’s chief, Stuart Roy, argued:

“Based on his electoral performance last night and his out-of-step record it is time for Newt Gingrich to exit the Republican nominating process. . . . Gingrich supported bailouts, an obvious non-starter for Republican primary voters. He supported Nancy Pelosi in extreme environmental initiatives on Global Warming, an obvious non-starter. And his campaign is an obvious non-starter.
“Tennessee, a border state with Gingrich’s home state of Georgia, was a solid victory for Santorum, and . . . [Gingrich’s] third-place finish in the Volunteer State . . . was a rejection of the idea that Gingrich has any southern appeal.
“With Gingrich exiting the race it would be a true head-to-head race and conservatives would be able to make a choice between a consistent conservative in Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney. For instance, with Gingrich out of the race Santorum would have won both Ohio and Michigan. Newt has become a hindrance to a conservative alternative.”

Gingrich, of course, is going nowhere right now and is in a good position to challenge Santorum in Alabama and Mississippi next week. Gingrich, after all, is the only candidate to win in the Deep South (South Carolina and Georgia) so there is no reason for him to give up before these two contests. Should he win either, it would be he who has the momentum going into Kansas, Missouri and other states with a strong social conservative base.

There will be a candidate’s forum on Monday in Alabama, the sort of free media and side-by-side comparison that could boost Gingrich, who tends to excel in these settings.

So what is the point of calling for Gingrich to get out? It sounds peevish and suggests that Santorum doubts whether he can best Gingrich in these two states. Moreover, it is rather presumptuous, given that Santorum has only 161 delegates. Gingrich, with 105 delegates, is much closer to Santorum and more able to overtake him than Santorum is to catch Romney, who has 404 delegates. Sure, it might be convenient for Gingrich to drop out, but the same is true of Santorum from Romney’s perspective.

Truth be told, Gingrich would have his revenge moment against Romney if he dropped out and endorsed Santorum. Even that might not be enough, considering that Romney has a big lead and is well-positioned to win in many states even without Gingrich in the field (e.g. Illinois, Wisconsin, Maryland, D.C., New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware). In any case, so long as it is possible that Gingrich can overtake Santorum, he’s not likely to give up that easily.

UPDATE (5:30 p.m.): Gingrich has put out a document blasting Santorum for being a “typical politician who played the Washington game. He is a big government, big labor, earmark lover who publicly admits to putting Party over principle when in power. Senator Santorum even endorsed pro-choice Arlen Specter, showing just how far he is willing to cast principle aside to be, as he put it, a ‘team player.’ ” You get the drift.

By  |  04:45 PM ET, 03/07/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company