The Republican Primary Ends With a Whimper
You can tell that the Republican nomination has been sealed up by the relative pittance of media coverage it has received in recent weeks. After wins in Alabama and Mississippi, Santorum appeared to be surging, but Romney headed him off with wins in the key battlegrounds of American Samoa and Puerto Rico. The recent contests in Wisconsin, Illinois, Maryland, Louisiana, and D.C. were met with none of the fanfare of earlier contests. The cable news channels didn’t block off their programming for minute-by-minute election analysis, but instead peppered it in amongst stories about Trayvon Martin, Obamacare, and in Fox’s case, the evils of the liberal media and Rock and Roll(presumably).
The media’s cutback coincided with the calcification of the trope that Romney’s delegate count made him inevitable. That Romney had a significant and, perhaps, uncatchable amount of delegates was clear as day after Super Tuesday. On one of those newfangled television/computer boards they use on CNN, John King clearly illustrated the almost miraculous path Santorum would have to chart to even remain semi-competitive, and narrowly prevent Romney from having the 1144 delegates needed to nominate by the convention. Far be it for me to comment on the structure of the Republican primary, but it seems slight unfair. Romney, who has 60% of the awarded delegates, has only won about 41% of the combined popular vote. In contrast, Santorum has 23% of the delegates with 28% of the vote, Gingrich has 14% of the delegates with 20% of the vote, and Paul has just 3% percent of delegates though he has won 11% of the vote. It seems that Republicans reward infrastructure, Rick Santorum won several places where he didn’t have a delegate attached to him and thus has nothing to show for it. The Republican primary seems to be proportionate in name only, and let’s not kid ourselves, this thing was in the bag for Mitt before the voting even begun. It was fun to watch the horse race, but the fix was in.
Santorum has vowed to continue the fight against Romney, despite the fact that he has no realistic chance to win. I don’t begrudge Santorum, he’s living a political dream and he’s hitting the snooze button on that nagging alarm. After Santorum’s crushing 20% defeat in his senate race in ’06, I’m sure he didn’t think he’d ever have a relevant political moment again. In the early days of the 2012 campaign, Santorum still seemed to be a non-entity. He didn’t excite anyone, or bring any interesting ideas to the table. The clearest evidence of this is that he was the last “non-Romney” to ascend to that position. But that fact actually worked in his favor, Romney didn’t have time to turn the attack dogs on him in Iowa, and he squeaked out a victory. With a little blip in South Carolina, Santorum remained Romney’s chief political rival from that point forward. This race has reinvigorated any hope he’s had to carve out a meaningful future for himself. He may see himself as a future James Dobson or Pat Robertson type, or maybe he’ll find himself in a John Ashcroft roll, but the election has certainly raised his national stature. Santorum used to be a sort of national joke; the scatological phrase attached to his name the first thing one found on Google about him. Well this race has changed all that, in fact now when you Google Santorum it’s the 4th link. Santorum has traveled the country and built a reasonable sized base of true supporters. It’s not like Romney’s really had any big success, even his knockout win in Wisconsin was only 43-38. So it makes sense why Santorum wants to continue this magic carpet ride.
But now we move to the general election and it’s sure to be wild. As everyone seems to be realizing, the ruling in Citizens United has created a monster and there will be untold millions spent on this race from secretive groups. This will have the net effect of debasing the discourse, though the discourse was already pretty debased. In my estimation, Romney enters the general as a pretty weak challenger; his negatives went way up during the primaries, and he seems to have neither calm conservatives or retain independents. That said, Obama is a pretty weak incumbent. His polling numbers aren’t great and people seem to agree that the country is on the wrong course. Republicans are certain to coalesce around Romney to some degree, and it figures to be an extremely hard fought, and painful to watch, election.
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