So it ends, not with a bang but more of a whimper.
The news that Rick Santorum has opted to suspend his campaign just two weeks before a multistate primary where opponent Mitt Romney would be expected to do well in all the states – except possibly Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania – coupled with the withdrawal in all but name by Newt Gingrich over the weekend (“he had more things to hit with than I did”), means that Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee come September. Sure, Ron Paul is still in the race but he hasn’t won a primary yet.
Obviously that’s frustrating news to Santorum backers (like The Other McCain) as well as residents of the five states (including Delaware) who were expectantly awaiting their turn in the national spotlight, but it also brings up a couple interesting questions.
- Who will be the second banana on the ticket? We saw a rejuvenated Republican Party for a brief time in 2008 when Sarah Palin was selected, so one would hope Romney assuages conservatives with a strong pick.
- Will the electorate in the remaining states which have not conducted primary elections embrace Mitt as the nominee?
I don’t know what the rules are for ballot withdrawal in the remaining states, but it’s quite likely that the last four standing (Romney, Paul, Gingrich, and Santorum) are on the ballot in 17 of the 19 remaining states (Nebraska and Montana are caucus states.) And we can look back at Virginia for a case study in just how much anti-Romney sentiment was out there – in a contest limited to Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, Romney couldn’t even carry 60 percent of the vote. Had it been Santorum or Gingrich on the ballot straight up against Romney, Rick or Newt may have carried the state.
It would be quite surprising now if Romney didn’t get a clear majority of the votes, but the depth of anti-Romney sentiment may be most expressed in states where Santorum or Gingrich were thought to be strongest (most likely Texas, Kentucky, Arkansas, Indiana, and South Dakota among remaining primary states.) But this ceding of the Presidential field could also have a detrimental effect on conservatives in downticket races as well – one example being the U.S. Senate primary in Indiana where moderate Senator Richard Lugar faces a primary opponent in Richard Mourdock.
But all the talk of a possible brokered convention and a white knight coming in to save the GOP will now be replaced by emotions from anger at the establishment to outright despair from the Right that Romney can’t win and we’re doomed to another four long years of Barack Obama. Yet if every conservative in the country came out and voted, we would win because Democratic turnout tends to lag behind Republican regardless of whatever tricks the Democrats try to pull. It’s simple math – around 40 percent of the country self-identifies as conservative while only 20 percent or so self-identify as liberal. Even if the squishy middle splits evenly, we win.
And it’s not like the incumbent has much of a record to run on, unless you define record deficits, record number of adults out of the work force, and record high gas prices as records to brag about. Obama has those.
So here we are: Obama vs. Romney. It wasn’t my personal choice (since I voted for Santorum after all my other good choices split the scene) but that’s the way it’s going to be.
And now for something (almost) completely different:
I have it on very good authority that someone familiar to local voters is going to jump into the First District Congressional race. That’s all I’m going to say for now, but watch this space for more details.