The end of the Santorum campaign

The least successful “favorite son” candidate of all-time drops out in the state that’s caused him endless grief

Topics: War Room,

The end of the Santorum campaignRick Santorum (Credit: CNN)

Rick Santorum finally admitted defeat and ended his presidential campaign this afternoon. That he lasted this long and leaves the race with several hundred delegates is a rather amazing feat, considering how futile his efforts seemed until the final days of 2011.

Still, Santorum really isn’t really dropping out voluntarily. The odds of winning the Republican nomination were remote (if that), but the possibility of a bunch more of primary and caucus victories in May and June was very real. In a speech last week, Santorum likened his candidacy to Ronald Reagan’s 1976 primary challenge to Gerald Ford, playing up the fact that Reagan only began winning states in big numbers late in the primary season. The implication seemed clear: Like Reagan, he hoped to make a late statement that would carry over to the next campaign.

But then Pennsylvania got in the way – again.

It’s doubtful that any presidential candidate has ever been as thoroughly undercut by his home state as Rick Santorum has. When he set out to run for the GOP nomination, he was just a few years removed from a landslide Senate reelection loss in the Keystone State. The perception that he was a “loser” colored the media and political world’s perception of his candidacy. Even though he met their various ideological litmus tests and was a natural fit for the “non-Romney” role in the GOP race, Santorum couldn’t get his own party to take him seriously for almost all of ’11.

You Might Also Like

That he ultimately did gain traction stands as a fluke for the ages; conservatives first cycled through Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Cain again and Newt Gingrich before finally giving Santorum a look on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. And because of the late date, Santorum was spectacularly ill-equipped to capitalize on his sudden momentum. Missed ballots, empty delegate slates, cash shortages, and thin staffing haunted him throughout the winter and spring, putting him in a deeper delegate hole than he should have been in.

Despite all of this, Santorum still managed to nab 11 primaries and caucuses, and came within a few points of scoring wins in Michigan and Ohio that just might have, against all odds, turned the GOP race in his favor. And even as the inevitability of a Romney nomination took hold, Santorum posted a crushing victory in Louisiana a few weeks back and still came within a few points of winning Wisconsin last week. Given the demographic divide that has driven the GOP race, he had a chance to defeat Romney in as many as nine May and June contests. That wouldn’t have given him the nomination, but it could have cemented him as the consensus conservative candidate for 2016.

To get to May and June, though, Santorum first had to make it through this month and its marquee contest: the April 24 primary in his Pennsylvania. Victory was certainly possible; the most recent polls showed him running a few points behind Romney, and who knows what a concerted appeal to voters’ home state pride might have yielded Santorum? But the risk was profound. Favorite son candidates almost never lose their home states; the last one to do so was Jerry Brown, who lost the June 1992 California primary and then spent the next six years in the political wilderness. For Santorum, a Pennsylvania loss to Romney might have washed away all the progress he’s made these past few months and left him with the same “loser” reputation that haunted him before.

And so the Santorum 2012 campaign comes to an end. By dropping out now, he spares himself a possibly humiliating defeat and also spares Romney a string of potentially embarrassing losses in May and June. Now Romney can set his sights on the election campaign against Barack Obama, while Santorum can set his on 2016.

Steve Kornacki

Steve Kornacki writes about politics for Salon. Reach him by email at SKornacki@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveKornacki

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>