With all the talk about candidates needing to get out of the presidential nomination race, you’d swear it was 2008 all over again. But this time all the talk is coming from the candidate and his campaign, which strikes me as unseemly and pitiful. Just as I believed that then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton deserved to stay in the race against then-Sen. Barack Obama four years ago, I believe Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, oh, and Ron Paul, should definitely stay in the race now.

It was around this time in 2008 when Obama backers were calling on Clinton to drop out of the race. “There is no way that Senator Clinton is going to win enough delegates to get the nomination,” Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a radio interview four years ago this month. And then he said something that 2012 campaign junkies will recognize.

I am very concerned John McCain, who has been making one gaffe after another, is getting a free ride on it because Senator Obama and Senator Clinton have to fight with each other. I think that her criticism is hurting him more than anything John McCain has said. I think that’s unfortunate.

This argument had me in full eye roll at the time. What was wrong with a little competition? Why were Obama supporters so worried that they’d rather keep him in a bubble of protection than have him sharpen his teeth in a real fight? As we saw, the prolonged nomination fight with Clinton made Obama an infinitely better candidate in the general election.

But here’s a key difference between then and now. The Democratic Party faithful were wild about both Obama and Clinton. And while there were some hard feelings after Obama secured the nomination, there was no question that the first-term senator had the party base behind him. Would that Romney could say the same.

For the life of him, Romney can’t seal the deal with the Republican Party faithful. Time and again, primary voters say they want a true conservative. Someone who shares their values, who is close to them on their issues. And that person is never Romney. That’s Santorum or Gingrich or Paul, depending on the state. But he always wins the most-electable contest. Romney rode that wave to must-win victories in Florida, Michigan and Ohio. Still, that’s not enough, it seems. The GOP is still praying for someone — anyone — to swoop in and save them from Mitt.

That’s why Romney and his campaign are in the unseemly business of begging his rivals to get out of the race. The candidate himself said as much Tuesday night during his speech to supporters when he said, “Thanks, you guys — nice races.” That sounds nice, in a “You can go home now. The dinner party is over” kinda way. And his campaign was at bit more specific in a meeting with reporters yesterday in Boston. “For those guys it’s going to take some sort of act of God to get to where they need to be on the nomination front,” a Romney campaign aide said.

At the rate things are going, Romney better hope it won’t take an act of God to quell the clamor for someone else to take the nomination.