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The Insiders
Posted at 08:00 AM ET, 03/20/2012

Santorum is barely holding on

One measure of presidential timber is its resilience to stress. By this test, Rick Santorum fails.

On a day when Mitt Romney stayed above the primary fray with yet another economic address aimed at the general election, Santorum was reduced to using Obama's talking points to hit his fellow Republican. In perhaps his sharpest personal attack yet, Santorum accused Romney of lacking a “core,” precisely the charge made by Obama’s campaign, as John Dickerson points out.

Stress is a terrible thing in campaigns. Santorum spent precious days in Puerto Rico for nothing — may be a tan? — and he is now watching Romney outspend him by as much as 9 to 1 on relentlessly negative ads. (By the way, my educated guess is that no presidential candidate in history has so dominated the airwaves as Mitt Romney has and still can’t quite close the deal.)

This kind of negative barrage wears on all candidates, especially ones as defenseless as Santorum. What once seemed like a fair fight in Illinois, is now turning into one where Romney yet again has a massive resource advantage.

Perhaps this explains Santorum’s ill-advised decision to spend election night Tuesday in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. A week ago, I suggested that the Illinois primary may be like Gettysburg — the Republicans’ decisive battle in their long civil war. But the metaphor doesn’t favor Santorum. He is General Lee who lives to fight again, but never to have another chance to win.

By  |  08:00 AM ET, 03/20/2012

 
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