Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bayou blowout: Rick Santorum, you're no Ronald Reagan


In case you missed it -- because, you know, you may have been enjoying the weekend or something, maybe spending time with the family, maybe watching March Madness, whatever -- Rick Santorum won yesterday's Louisiana primary by a convincing 22-point margin over Rommey, 49 to 27, with Gingrich in third at 16 and Paul bringing up the rear with 6.


Santorum is making it out to be a significant victory:

Fresh off a big win in Louisiana, Rick Santorum insisted Sunday that Republicans are rejecting the premise that rival Mitt Romney has virtually locked up the GOP presidential nomination.

"Even though a lot of folks are saying this race is over, people in Louisiana said, 'No, it's not,'" Santorum said on the CBS program "Face the Nation" about victory in Saturday's Bayou State primary.

But of course it is, pretty much:

The win gave Mr. Santorum a much-needed psychological boost but it will be unlikely to change the dynamics of the race. Only 20 delegates were up for grabs on Saturday, with 26 more to be allocated later. Even if Mr. Santorum were to claim most of them, he would still have only half the delegates that Mitt Romney, his chief rival, already has.

Mr. Romney's win last week in Illinois, as well as his subsequent endorsement by Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, dimmed Mr. Santorum's political prospects, although his victory in Louisiana showed how he could still complicate Mr. Romney's efforts to capture the 1,144 delegates needed for the nomination.

In a fund-raising letter sent out Saturday night, Mr. Santorum said the results in Louisiana had sent "shock waves" through the political world.

"Tonight with our strong victory in Louisiana, our campaign has now won 11 states, tying a record and proving we can win in the West, South and Midwest," the letter said. "Not since Ronald Reagan in 1976 has a conservative candidate won as many states as we have."

As I've written many times, I'm an enthusiastic supporter of Rick Santorum. He's a crazy extremist and just the sort of person Republicans should nominate, the ideal opponent for President Obama. (I say that as a Democrat, of course.) But come on. It's over.

Sure, the race will go on, for now, but Romney is now well ahead nationally, with his support going up significantly since his win in Illinois last Tuesday.

And while the calendar, with a three-week gap between contests in April, hurts Romney insofar as he'll have to wait even longer to wrap this up (in terms of public perception, if not necessary in terms of the actual delegate count), the upcoming contests will only push him further into the lead. He'll likely win all three on April 3 (Maryland, D.C., Wisconsin -- yes, in Wisconsin he's surged into the lead) and then all five on April 24 (New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware -- yes, I think he'll win Pennsylvania even though it's Santorum's home state). If he's still be in the race, Santorum could win subsequent contests in Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia on May 8, but it'll be done by then. Romney has the math on his side, and ultimately the powers that be in the GOP will do whatever they need to do to end this thing ASAP.

As for Santorum's win in Louisiana, there were no "shock waves." He was expected to win there, just as he's done well throughout the social conservative Deep South. Big deal. We know he can win those states, but they're states Romney will win in November.

This is to take nothing away from him. Look, he came out of a distant nowhere, an embarrassing also-ran who looked like he'd never win anything, or even come close, to Romney's chief rival and candidate of the Republican right (and specifically of the party's right-wing grassroots base). I find him appalling on so many levels, but there's no denying what a political phenomenon he's become, if only for a short time in the spring of 2012. (Maybe he's the next Mike Huckabee, with a profitable future as right-wing pundit.)

And 11 wins -- well, that is impressive. But...

2012 isn't 1976.

2016 won't be 1980.

And Rick Santorum isn't Ronald Reagan.

Santorum can be as presumptuously self-aggrandizing as he wants -- I understand why he's trying to make this case, as ridiculous as it is -- but reality is an obstacle he won't be able to overcome.

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