Whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland, and the District of Columbia turns out to be, it’s time for Rick Santorum to call it quits. He’s had his day in the sun; he’s shown that he can compete on the national stage; and he’s rehabilitated his sagging political career. Now it’s time for him to fold up his tent and go home, or he risks losing the credibility and goodwill that he has created.
Going into the April 3 primaries, Romney has 568 GOP delegates compared to Santorum’s 273. To win the GOP nomination, Romney has to win about 46% of the remaining delegates, and Santorum needs to win more than 70% of them. Although it’s not mathematically impossible for Santorum to win the nomination, the probability of him winning is rapidly approaching zero, especially when you factor into the equation the latest polling data.
The most recent NBC News/Marist poll shows Romney leading Santorum in Wisconsin by 7 points — 40% to 33%. If that lead stands, he’ll get all of Wisconsin’s 42 delegates. The latest Rasmussen poll shows Romney leading Santorum in Maryland by 17 points — 45% to 28%. If that lead holds, he’ll pick up all of Maryland’s 37 delegates. A few days ago, Romney won a straw poll in D.C. with 72% of the vote while Santorum got just 8.1%. Although he has virtually ignored D.C., Romney will win all of the District’s 16 delegates. As you can see, the math doesn’t look good for Santorum going into Tuesday’s primaries, but it will look worse, much worse on Wednesday morning.
Thankfully, Santorum has softened his approach a bit lately and is beginning to focus more of his attention on President Obama, but that’s not enough. He’s becoming a distraction and a problem, and he’s helping to make what promises to be a challenging fall campaign even rougher for Mitt Romney. Santorum continues to make biting remarks about Romney despite the fact that it’s becoming obvious to almost everyone except Santorum that Romney will be the GOP nominee. According to the New York Times,
He [Santorum] still reserves plenty of derision for Mr. Romney, mocking him repeatedly as the “Etch A Sketch” candidate whose conservative values are malleable and insincere.”
According to Brad Knickerbocker at the Christian Science Monitor, the 2012 presidential election is now a two-man race between Romney and Obama. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agrees. He told CNBC that “[i]t’s pretty obvious this nomination is essentially over.” He’s right. With growing support and endorsements from prominent GOP conservatives including former President George H. W. Bush, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the writing is on the wall, and it’s becoming clearer by the day.
Ryan’s endorsement was especially timely coming as it did before the Wisconsin primary. Even more, Ryan is the one man in the Republican Party who has consistently and persuasively presented the conservative case to counter President Obama’s liberal, left-wing agenda. He stands head and shoulders above other GOP conservatives in that regard. Ryan knows the facts, and he presents them in an articulate and convincing manner. According to Jonathan Tobin, a writer for Commentary,
…Ryan’s backing is a telling blow to any hopes Rick Santorum might have harbored about an upset in the Badger state. Ryan is a popular figure in his home state, and while endorsements do not guarantee votes, there’s no denying it will give Romney a boost at a time when he is maintaining a steady but not overwhelming lead. The warmth of the endorsement and the way Ryan addressed the fears of conservatives about his candidate’s moderate tendencies should also go a long way toward putting a fork in a GOP race that appears to be winding down.
Santorum’s constant harping about Romney’s supposed lack of conservative credentials is growing tiresome, and worse, it’s hurting the GOP’s likely nominee at a time when he should be devoting all of his time and attention to overcoming President Obama’s double-digit lead in the polls. Targeting Romney’s conservatism under these circumstances makes no sense. Hopefully, Ryan’s endorsement will put an end to that kind of nonsense and send the message to Santorum that it’s time to throw in the towel.
Newt Gingrich has overstayed his welcome, too, and he has ended up looking like a bitter old man whose only goal is to sabotage Romney. Things are so bad for Gingrich that his leading financial backer, Sheldon Adelson, declared publicly that Gingrich is “at the end of his line.” Gingrich may finally be getting the message, though. His private meeting with Romney a few days ago lends credence to that argument.
Tuesday’s primaries should motivate Santorum to announce his withdrawal from the race. If they don’t, he’ll begin to look like Gingrich, and he may put at risk any hope that he has of influencing the GOP agenda going into the presidential election. By withdrawing from the race and supporting Romney, Santorum could spend the rest of the spring, summer, and fall helping to unite the Republican Party behind Romney and make an important contribution to the presidential election. The choice is his.