We now know that the GOP presidential campaign will drag on for weeks or months to come, with the party squandering millions of dollars more on negative TV ads and robo calls and further diminishing its prospects of beating President Obama in November. It’s a demolition derby that former First Lady Barbara Bush described as “the worst campaign I’ve ever seen in my life.”
After yesterday’s Super Tuesday extravaganza, in which former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney eked out a victory over former senator Rick Santorum in Ohio and won decisively in Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, Idaho and Alaska, the race essentially has evolved into a competition between Mitt and the Three Dwarfs, with Romney now in the best position to rack up the 1,144 delegates needed to win the GOP presidential nomination this summer.
Santorum and the two other conservative contenders are formidable in their own right and had good showings last night. But by continuing to compete for the role of the anti-Romney, each will suffer from arrested campaign development and find it increasingly frustrating to try to overtake the Romney juggernaut. Moreover, the GOP establishment has begun to rally around Romney to try to bring a close to the political carnage and get on with the general election campaign.“I’m not going to let you down,” Romney told supporters at a victory celebration in Boston. “I’m going to get this nomination.”
Without question, Romney is a flawed candidate who, as time goes by, seems more and more out of sync with his party’s conservative base and unable to connect with rank-and-file voters. Romney has been repeatedly bludgeoned by Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for lacking true conservative credentials and for coming down on the wrong side of the health care reform debate while governor of Massachusetts.
Santorum said last night, in a speech to supporters in Steubenville, Ohio, that the country needs “a fighter” and someone who understands what it means to grow up in a working-class neighborhood, unlike the wealthy, patrician Romney. Asked what candidate best understands the problems of average Americans, only two in ten voters in Ohio and Tennessee named Romney in exit polls yesterday – while one third said Santorum.