Should he stay or should he go now?: Rick Santorum’s future as a presidential hopeful

As Tim Fitzsimmons points out, calls for Rick Santorum to drop his presidential bid have increased of late, especially in light of Mitt Romney’s sweep of Tuesday night’s primaries, winning Wisconsin, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.  Romney leads the delegate count but Santorum has a strong appeal to conservatives, a group with which Romney is struggling, preventing him from sealing the deal.  So the question remains: Should Santorum stay in the race or concede defeat?

With the trifecta on Tuesday, Romney’s delegate lead increased by 85 to 655, nearly 60% of the 1,144 needed to secure the nomination.  Santorum substantially trails Romney in the count, having earned only 278 delegates.  Such a commanding lead is the primary argument for Santorum to bow out.  “There’s no way for Santorum to get to eleven-forty-four,” his detractors claim.  And they may be right—kinda.

A former U.S. Senator, Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania has yet to hold its primary, which is set for April 24.  But Santorum’s problem is that Pennsylvania has not been as friendly to its native son as his competitors’ home states were to them.  Santorum lost his 2006 Senate re-election bid in Pennsylvania by a large margin and is currently leading the presidential ticket there by only 6 percentage points.  Conversely, Newt Gingrich won Georgia by 21% and Romney won his home state of Massachusetts by an epic 60%.  A single-digit lead in your home state is not a very promising vista for any presidential candidate.

Santorum’s largest base is evangelical Christians and those who describe themselves as “very conservative.”  This describes Texas to a big T, if you’ll entertain my pun.  The Lone Star State has its primary slated for May 29 with a whopping 155 delegates up for grabs.  Even if Santorum won all of the 155, which isn’t likely to happen, and added all of Pennsylvania’s 72 delegates, again unlikely to occur because of the strange way Pennsylvania awards delegates, he would still be woefully behind Romney, who is expected to carry the other states between now and the Texas primary.

But wait, I said Santorum’s detractors were only “kinda” right in saying he couldn’t get to the eleven-forty-four he needs.  The fact is that even if Romney “secured” all 2,286 delegates up for grabs during nominating contests, those delegates could still go to Tampa and vote for whomever they please.  Technically, the GOP could get to Florida in August with Romney still substantially leading the delegate count and walk away with Santorum as their nominee.  So despite the delegate tracking that goes on during the campaign, Santorum could still pull of a convention victory.  But that’s highly unlikely, and isn’t the leading reason Santorum should stay.

Another leading argument for Santorum to drop out is because his presence is “dividing the party.”  What a load of manure.  The fact is the Republican Party isn’t divided; despite rifts between House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, it’s pretty darn united.  Beating Barack Obama on November 6th is the uniting cause.  As I pointed out in “ObamaCare and the Court” last week, Republicans aren’t going to vote for Obama.  There could be a dozen folks running for the GOP nod (and at one point there were), but the party would still be united against President Obama.  Whoever the nominee is will enjoy the support of Republicans so Santorum should not buy into this fallacious argument.  In the meantime, we’re just trying to figure out who in our party is best equipped to beat the president, which brings me to my next point.

Electability.  We’ve all heard it: “Mitt Romney stands the best chance of beating Barack Obama.”  It’s really beginning to stink in here.  Nominating Romney, who is well known as a moderate, would be akin to the selection of John McCain in 2008.  We all see how that worked out for the Grand Ol’ Party—four years of “change.”  Current polling, which granted shouldn’t be our lynch pin, shows Obama as the victor in both scenarios, when Santorum is placed head to head with Obama as well as when Romney squares off against the president.  Romney is running closer to the president than is Santorum, but both are within striking distance.  The electability argument is a myth and shouldn’t push Santorum to resignation.

While Santorum certainly has an uphill climb to secure the nomination, Mitt Romney has apparently activated cruise control.  If Santorum decides to stay in the race, he must remain aware of the unlikelihood, but not impossibility of his nomination.  Romney will most likely secure the nomination, but he’s no shoe-in.  With a delegate count working against him, not to mention the media claiming Romney’s inevitable victory, the former Keystone State Senator has a lot of work to do; and if he stays in, he stands a shot, albeit a small one, at winning the nomination.  So, should he stay or should he go now?  Either way, because he sticks to his principles and is unashamed of his faith, Rick Santorum is a winner in my book; and no, not in the Charlie Sheen kind of way.

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