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I Was Wrong: The Far Right Throws a Hail Mary

Rick Santorum official photo

Rick Santorum, hoping no gays are looking at his beautiful face.

Well, it was bound to happen: I got one wrong. Last week, Rick Santorum blew the lid off the polls, my predictions, and the GOP primary race in general by winning all three contests held last Tuesday. I thought that Rick would slowly fade away after disappointing performances in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, left with only campaign debt and distant dreams of corn-fed Iowan crowds. I thought that the rest of this primary would just be Mitt Romney staggering to the finish line with Gingrich clawing at his ankles.

But no! It appears the far right has thrown a Hail Mary and put all their chips in on Santorum (how’s that for mixed metaphors?). Before, the gay-bashing, Muslim-fearing, Obama’s birth-questioning, hardcore conservatives that made up a majority in many Republican primary battles were split between numerous candidates. They had to choose between Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry for who they thought was most qualified to drop-kick an undocumented worker through a Planned Parenthood. Romney was left to scoop up the Rockefeller, patrician, business wing of the GOP and the lukewarm supporters that just wanted the most electable candidate to run against Obama. With the Gingrich campaign falling apart (again), the far right seems to have finally found an Anti-Romney to coalesce around. Coming off last weeks wins, Rick Santorum has shot to the top of the national polls, and I’m sad that I may have to start taking him seriously. Jokes with his last name don’t even seem as funny anymore.

This should feel even sadder to Mitt Romney, though, who must be experiencing some depressing déjà vu right now. Take a look at these results compiled by RealClearPolitics.com from Iowa and New Hampshire in 2008:

Line graph of polls from 2008 Iowa Caucus

Line graph of polls from 2008 New Hampshire Primary

It might be a little hard to read, but basically you can see that Mitt Romney is the yellow line, with a sizable lead in both states until the last few weeks when first Mike Huckabee (black line) and then John McCain (brown line) came out of respective nowheres to just edge him out.

This time, Santorum may be the one streaking a brown line from the bottom. (Ok, the jokes are still kind of funny).

Anyway, the point is that Mitt Romney is in trouble. He made it this far by having the far right vote split, but polls have shown that he would lose in a head to head battle with either Gingrich or Santorum if one of them dropped out. So expect a lot more negative ads from the Romney camp. My money’s still on Mitt, since he still has major strengths and potentially better organization if this comes to a long, drawn-out state by state fight for delegates. Regardless, this thing likely will not wrap up as quickly as everyone had thought.

However, Romney still has one last wild card in the game: Newt Gingrich, the man no one can get to just f-ing go away. If he somehow makes (another) completely improbable resurgence, Mitt will be tipping his hat to the Newt in his convention acceptance speech. Even if Gingrich can just leave enough proverbial claw marks in Santorum’s back to slow him down, it might be enough for Romney to stay ahead. My bet is that Gingrich fades pretty quickly at this point, but as long as he stays in the race, he will be sapping voters that would probably prefer Santorum over Romney if they had to choose.

So have Republicans really decided to make Rick Santorum their Valentine this year? Stay tuned.

  1. Raresparky
    February 15th, 2012 at 07:16 | #1

    Well, Santorum (I forgot to capitalize and AutoCorrect changed it to sanitarium…) would be a welcome opponent to the Obama camp, but boy would THAT be ugly!

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