Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bye, Bye, Rick


Rick Santorum's campaign for president ended Tuesday with his announcement that he is calling it quits. He made a wise decision, in my view.

He never had a chance of defeating Mitt Romney. Had he stayed in the race he could have limped on to the Republican National Convention this summer. However, the key to his survival was the Pennsylvania primary on April 24. He should have been the state's favorite son for president; after all he was the state's U.S. senator for eight years and, although voters cast him out in 2006 in a landslide, he retains strong support among Republicans.

However, there were growing signs that Santorum might lose Pennsylvania to Romney. The most recent poll, from Public Policy Polling on April 6, showed Romney ahead at 42 percent to Santorum's 37 percent. And Romney had barely begun his carpet-bombing of negative TV advertising against Santorum. Had Santorum lost Pennsylvania, he would have been relegated to political irrelevance. By withdrawing, he keeps his prospects alive for 2016 (if Romney loses this year) or 2020 (if Romney wins). Santorum is only 53 years old; he would still be in his prime even in 2020.

As for the reasons Santorum lost this year's content, I refer you to an excellent piece in Politico by Artur Davis, a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Institute of Politics and a former Democratic congressman from Alabama. I can't say it better than him. Here is Davis's analysis:
"I've believed since the night of his Iowa speech that Santorum could have owned a unique economic message, one that chastised Wall Street and Washington for breaching the social compact, and one that recognized that middle class anxiety has cultural and economic roots. He could have so easily broadened that message by embracing tough education reforms and a crackdown on special interest influence. He could have wielded the Bain Capital card much more credibly than Gingrich.
"For a mix of reasons - the lack of a strategic thinker in his campaign circle, an undisciplined communications style, and way too much time arguing process and electability instead of ideas - Santorum never polished the smart populism that I described above. Instead of becoming the 'creative, new ideas' alternative to Romney, he lapsed into the politics of last conservative standing, which was only good enough for the Deep South and a string of solid seconds. Even that might have worked against a Giuliani or a Huntsman; but against a mainstream conservative like Romney, whom the right found acceptable if unexciting, the game plan was too cautious and too narrow."
So now it's Romney.


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