State of the GOP Race: Santorum Drops Out Edition

I suppose I should say a few words about Sen. Santorum backing out of the presidential race and Gov. Romney (presumably) wrapping it up.  So: “applesauce, serializable, verily, poof.”

Santorum actually lost a few weeks ago, when he lost Illinois.  He confirmed his loss in Wisconsin, but it was already too late by then.  In truth, it’s been an uphill battle since he lost Ohio, and that loss, in turn, can be blamed, perhaps, on losing Michigan.  It is good that he had the humility to surrender — although we cannot give him too much credit, since going on would have meant a sure-to-be humiliating defeat in Pennsylvania and leaving his desperately ill daughter, Bella, so he can tilt at windmills.  He may have a future in the GOP, but I can’t see what: we have much stronger presidential candidates coming up in 2016 than we did this year, and I still have a hard time seeing him beating Sen. Bob Casey, Jr.  Perhaps he would do better as a mentor, adviser, and think tanker for the next generation of Republicans.

Romney’s primary victory inspires no confidence that he can win an election against President Obama.  He won this nomination because Republicans, themselves riven by internal debates, disliked him the least intensely, and because he had virtually infinite resources compared to the struggling campaigns of his rivals.  He now enters an election wherein he will have to persuade swing voters, who are by now cynical about the whole American political enterprise, to dislike him less intensely than they do the President.  He will have to do this without a fundraising or organizing advantage, and, indeed, with a largely apathetic base.  In short: he won the nomination because of weak competition, and he now has to count on even weaker competition from the President.  That he is even a contender is a signal of how historically unpopular President Obama has become.

Romney is, nevertheless, the closest thing we have to a pro-life, balanced-budget, free-markets major-party candidate.  As president, he will name good judges like Paul Clement to the Supreme Court.  President Obama will name more people like Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.  After the Obamacare hearings a couple weeks ago (to say nothing of Roe v. Wade), the immense importance of Supreme Court justices having been made clear, this issue alone should be enough to get anyone out the door to their voting stations.

Paul supporters can take heart.  Deluded into believing that the Paul campaign’s superior organization can win enough delegates to take the nomination in Tampa, they may continue to show up to primaries and caucuses, while other Republicans, believing the media line that the nominating contest is over, may not.  If Paul wins 60% of the outstanding delegates — which would require him to do things like win Texas outright — he could still force a brokered convention.  This will not happen.  But, if everyone else stays home, Paul could still win enough delegates to make a real nuisance of himself at the convention, which would be good for the party.

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