What about the rest of 2012? Santorum indicated that he will campaign for Romney in the fall to defeat President Obama. In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal praised Santorum for leading the assault on President Obama’s health care plan, but also noted: “There are no consolation prizes in presidential politics.”
Actually, they are wrong about that: On three occasions in the last century, a presidential nominee picked the runner-up in delegates to be their running mate and then went on to victory in November. In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt chose John Nance Garner; in 1960, John Kennedy chose Lyndon Johnson; and Ronald Reagan chose the first George Bush in 1980. And of course, Johnson and Bush both became president.
The odds are against Romney selecting Santorum as his running mate, due to the personal animosity that developed in 2012 — California Republican analyst Tony Quinn rates it as a 1 in 5,000 chance. But 2012 need only be a trial run. At age 54, Rick Santorum should have another national campaign in his future. Presumably, he’ll get his own show on Fox News or talk radio and hit the speaking circuit, thus earning a good living and keeping in touch with social conservatives.
In his Wisconsin concession speech, Rick Santorum deliberately evoked Ronald Reagan’s unsuccessful run in 1976 that was followed by a landslide victory four years later. That seems premature: one key difference is that Reagan took President Ford to the final night of the 1976 GOP Convention, holding the incumbent to just 52.57% of the delegates. Obviously, Santorum didn’t reach that level of performance this year. But who knows about next time.
Look at it this way: In 2011, Rick Santorum had virtually no future on the national stage. Now, thanks to his runner-up finish in 2012, he might yet have one.