Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (and, for that matter, Texas Congressman Ron Paul) may not accept- nor even especially like- this statement: but the contest for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination is (absent something completely bizarre and "out of left field" we cannot at all well foresee at this typing) now truly a two-man race.
Moreover, it is a race much like the late laps of a long-duration auto race- say, the Indy 500 or even Daytona (and, after all, whom amongst us does not like NASCAR? [;-)])- in which the current leader of the race has just pitted for, seemingly, the last time (thus: he, most likely, has enough fuel to win) and we're all waiting- lap after lap as the number of such laps yet necessary to have gone 500 miles steadily decreases- to see if said leader yet blows his engine or shreds a tire or something that might then allow the guy in second place to gain the checkered flag by, if nothing else, mere default!
There is no question that former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum had an important victory in LOUISIANA this past Saturday, adding the Pelican State to those neighboring Southern States (Alabama and Mississippi) he had also won in Presidential Primaries held less than a week before-- but he, nevertheless, ended up having to share the relatively few National Convention delegates available in the Louisiana event with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney who yet remains the front-runner, still the man to beat: yes, not yet as inevitable the 2012 Republican presidential nominee as he has been so often painted but still, more or less, "getting there"-- slowly but surely.
Thus, Santorum yet finds himself (as of this typing) some 300 delegates back of Romney in this website's "soft" count with (as I have already pointed out in two recent Commentaries of mine) a very difficult month of April ahead of him. ACT II of this Presidential Election drama now heads into its own denouement (Tuesday 3 April: Presidential Primaries in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Wisconsin) before the curtain will fall on said Act after the Presidential Primaries of Tuesday 24 April (Connecticut and Rhode Island, Delaware and New York and Senator Santorum's own home State- the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)...
simply put: Rick Santorum has to, somehow, gain significant ground on Mitt Romney during this very stretch--
but can he?
The best prognostications right now are not all that favorable for the Pennsylvanian:
Based on the results of the Presidential Primaries already held in New England- New Hampshire (in which Romney took 75% of the delegates up for grabs), Vermont (53%) and Massachusetts (in which Romney took all the delegates [admittedly, an aberration in large part due to Romney having once been the Bay State's Governor])- it is not all that much a stretch of the imagination to suggest that Romney should take at least an average of around 60% of the National Convention delegates in those "Romney-friendly" States voting during April which are not 'Winner Take All' statewide (that is: are either Winner-Take-All by [at least in part] Congressional District or Proportional in how the State might distribute delegates)... this, of course, does not mean Romney will win circa 60% of these (nor does it, on the other hand, mean that Romney won't win more than that!)-- it is merely a reasonable "ballpark" figure in these States (Connecticut, Maryland, New York and Rhode Island). In these four States, this would give Romney some 104 out of 170 National Convention delegates available herein...
add to Romney's totals- in this hypothetical- 17 from Winner-Take-All Delaware (more like eastern Pennsylvania than the western part of that State from which Santorum himself hails) and 16 from Winner-Take-All D.C. and the "score" coming out of these would be Romney 137 to Santorum's 66... already, Santorum has to cut into this possibility (win Delaware and the 'score' drops to 120 to 83; win Maryland [which gives the Statewide winner 10 at-large delegates] as well and the 'score' drops to 110 to 93 in Romney's favor)... but should Romney do better than is here being projected (only for sake of this argument) in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island, that would well offset the effect of hypothetical Santorum victories in Delaware and Maryland (the Pennsylvanian isn't even on the ballot in the District of Columbia, by the way: a 16 delegate "giveaway" on Santorum's part!).
So now one must look to, first, Wisconsin on (again) April 3d and then, obviously, Pennsylvania come (as already noted) April 24th:
Wisconsin is, quite obviously, a key to Santorum's having a better April than he might otherwise have: for, if Wisconsin proves to be more like neighboring Michigan was, it would certainly help minimize any gains for Romney coming out of D.C. and Maryland (further: if Santorum could actually win Maryland, Tuesday 3 April could well be a "wash" with Romney and Santorum ending up more or less evenly sharing that day's "take" (the total number of delegates being bound/pledged on 3 April is 95, so someone will- by definition- end up with more such delegates coming out of that day's Presidential Primaries!).
Santorum's own home State, meanwhile, is subject to the vagaries of a so-called 'Loophole' Primary in which the names of presidential candidates don't even appear on the Delegate Selection portion of the ballot! However: should Santorum do well on his own "home field", so to speak, he still is going to be sharing National Convention delegates coming out of Pennsylvania with Romney-- the real question will be, of course, how many are so shared (an even more important question should Romney win more delegates in the Keystone State than Santorum)?
But Senator Santorum's problem appears to be that it will be highly unlikely (possible, yes-- but not all that probable) that he will actually be able to do all that much as regards beginning to catch up with Governor Romney (who will, very likely, crack the 700 delegate mark [most likely even be pushing 750!] in this website's own "soft" count come the end of April-- if Romney ends up with significantly more than that by then [which would then have him running ahead of the percentage of total delegates in States which will have, by then, have already started their Republican National Convention delegate selection process as far as Romney's own percentage of "soft"-counted delegates in relation to the 1144 he would need in order to 'clinch' the GOP presidential nomination], that would not be good for Santorum's presidential ambitions at all!)... if so, why might this even be?
Back on this past 29 December, I compared Senator Santorum's candidacy to that of Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) in the 2004 and 2008 Democratic presidential nomination contests.
[W]hy is he even running? I back then asked. Doubtless, his supporters- few as they might be- would say that he is advancing a (mostly sociocultural) conservative agenda that has, in their eyes, become lost in the hands of the other Republican presidential hopefuls... but does he really have a chance?
Then, this being a time during which polls attempting to "read the tea-leaves" going into the yet to be conducted Iowa Caucuses (seems so long ago now, doesn't it? [;-)]) were quite fluid, a boldface note was appended to this piece after original posting noting significant changes in those polls, even overnight, after which I wondered aloud:
Hmmmm... perhaps Senator Santorum can win the Iowa caucuses, after all!
As we all now know, Santorum did win those Iowa caucuses and, although it would take another couple weeks to confirm this, even *I* was able to then self-deprecatorily note, in my very next Commentary, that
While I'd like to take credit for so closely accurate a prediction... it is altogether obvious that my tongue was very much in cheek... although I was attempting, in something of a humorous way, to indicate just how volatile the whole Republican presidential nomination race actually is, at least early on.
Yet- despite Santorum's impressive victories back in early February (and even his virtual tie in Michigan near the end of that same month) and his wins in Oklahoma and Tennessee on 'Super Tuesday' (6 March) and Alabama and Mississippi a week later, along with Louisiana even more recently- has he really advanced his own candidacy for the Presidency per se all that much beyond that which I first opined now nearly three months ago?
Senator Santorum was, back then (lest we all forget), seemingly the proverbial "odd man out": for, as 2011 first turned into 2012, someone else- say, Speaker Gingrich or (despite his gaffe-ridden and [as it turned out] short-lived presidential campaign) Governor Rick Perry of Texas- was thought of as the more likely candidate to at least somewhat more successfully meld social conservatism with fiscal conservatism in a bid to keep the generally acknowledged front-runner, Mitt Romney (fiscal conservative, yes-- but not seen as really being all that much of a social conservative [his own Mormonism- which seems quite strange when it comes to the very idea of social conservatism- seeming to hurt the former Massachusetts Governor]), from winning the nomination all too easily. Even as late as the South Carolina Presidential Primary on 21 January (Newt Gingrich actually won that one-- remember?), Rick Santorum was not seen- by most- as the champion of the 'anti-Romney' forces in this GOP presidential nomination race (Rick Perry had, by then, dropped out and endorsed Gingrich).
Granted: Senator Santorum has come a long way in the two months since then, yet the signs (more endorsements by leading Republican politicians, more support from the Party leaders that will be ex officio delegates to the National Convention [the closest thing the GOP currently has to the Democrats' veritable army of "Superdelegates"]) are starting to be seen indicating at least the potential of a significant turn towards Governor Romney as the eventual Republican presidential nominee-- Santorum falling further behind Romney throughout April's Presidential Primaries may yet turn what is still something of a trickle of increased support- within the Grand Old Party- for Romney into a virtual avalanche!
Were that last to actually become the case, one could- by then- well be hearing echoes of the words of the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill while publicly ruminating upon the larger ramifications of the British victory at El Alamein in Egypt during World War II:
Now, this is not the end: it is not even the beginning of the end-- but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Rick Santorum simply cannot allow himself to be standing before his own supporters at yet another campaign stop in the days immediately following the Presidential Primaries of this coming April 24th by then facing "the end of the beginning" and have any real hope of stopping Mitt Romney from (if only eventually) claiming the top Republican prize in 2012 (let alone claiming it for himself!)...
and Santorum's own presidential campaign certainly can't even survive post-April 24th being perceived as "the beginning of the end"!