No, it is not impossible for Santorum to win. But it is now extremely unlikely — largely as a result of what transpired on Super Tuesday. In order for Santorum to win, he would have to garner 65% of the remaining delegates at stake. Gingrich would need 70%. Romney needs just 48%. So far, Santorum has won 22% of the delegates while Romney has grabbed 52%. Even if Gingrich were to drop out, the prospect of Santorum running up those totals is a very long shot at best.
It is false to assume that every single Gingrich supporter would transfer their allegiance to Santorum if the former speaker were to drop out. That makes the argument that splitting the conservative vote is the only thing keeping Santorum from winning an inaccurate one. In fact, Santorum is already dominating the conservative vote with Gingrich finishing a distant second. Only in Georgia did Newt beat Rick among conservatives. Elsewhere, it was Santorum: 36-12 in Vermont; 50-18 in Ohio; 53-22 in Tennessee; and 32-9 in Oklahoma.
No doubt a race without Gingrich would give Santorum a nice little bump in some northern states. And he would continue to dominate Romney in many Deep South states. But the rules, and the math, still favor Romney — even with a Gingrich withdrawal.
But even with Romney’s clear victory on Super Tuesday, and the inexorability of the delegate math, Mitt is still not getting much respect. His campaign organization is head and shoulders above any other candidate. He just raised $11 million in February — light years beyond any of his rivals. Why are there so many doubters among the pundit class?
First, the pundits are human. They want the race to continue because it gives them something meaningful to write and talk about. By not dismissing the extremely unlikely prospect that Santorum can catch Romney, they maintain their importance to the political conversation.
Beyond that — and perhaps more fundamentally — they really don’t much like Mitt Romney. He’s too rich, too stiff, too distant — perhaps the least approachable major candidate in a while. Little personal warmth, not much passion, Mitt Romney, for all his presumed competence and ability, doesn’t give off much heat and is therefore — for many — uninteresting.
Of course, conservatives have their own beefs with Romney, having nothing to do with his perceived lack of likeability. And Republican voters have shown their own reluctance to embrace him. Even now, with the “Not-Romney” flavor of the month largely in the past, the party is at best ambivalent about his nomination. The problem for conservatives is that a clear majority of the party are even less enthralled with Gingrich or Santorum. Is it any wonder so many want to see another candidate get in the race?
Romney is not likely to win next week in Alabama and Mississippi (he should win Hawaii), nor is he expected to win the Kansas caucuses this coming Saturday. But he will finish well enough to keep adding to his delegate total and continue his march toward the 1144 needed for the nomination.
Maybe then he’ll get a little respect from the pundits and commentators who have so blithely dismissed his smashing victory on Super Tuesday.