Santorum’s Last Stand?
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
As Newt Gingrich has ridden out into the sunset, it remains to be seen if Rick Santorum has any fight left in his campaign. While both of these Romney blockers have vowed to stay into the fight until the end, the energy and momentum of the Santorum campaign has probably only one more gasp or surprise left before the apparently inevitable Romney nomination falls into place. With Wisconsin, Maryland, and D.C. primaries tomorrow, it will take an absolute miracle for Santorum to stop the Romney roll. In fact, if Santorum were to lose his home state of Pennsylvania next Tuesday, his campaign will probably be over as well as broke.
Romney has finally begun to look like the front runner he was expected to be, picking up the endorsements and raising the money to set up the fall campaign. There are some small footnotes which at best are amusing and at worst may be telling. The only Bush to not have endorsed Romney so far is George W. Bush. His father and brother Jeb have finally fallen into place. There is no reasonable explanation for his staying back at this point except to add more excitement to the Texas primary at the end of May, but by that time his endorsement might be meaningless.
Given the flat nature of Mitt Romney’s personality and the campaign’s style, there have begun to be suggestions that his very likeable and personable wife, Ann Romney, will be his most visible surrogate on the campaign trail. Given the fact that Michelle Obama has already proven herself to be a tremendous campaign asset for the President, the Romney team may be well advised to move the candidate’s wife forward even faster.
On the issues as well Romney seems to continue to have a problem. With the economy appearing to continue to be moving in the President’s favor, Romney will have a difficult time blaming the Washington economic crisis of the past four years on the President, when people are feeling somewhat better now as they start to see light at the end of the tunnel; regardless of how they suffered previously. Second, Romney knows that regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court healthcare decision in June, given his record in Massachusetts, this will not be an issue he can use against Obama, as the Affordable Health Care Act was modeled in part after the Massachusetts law that he signed. This will leave him with a set of social issues including immigration, gun-control, abortion, etc., the agenda of the Republican base and not the general election agenda.
Just when everyone predicted that after such an ineffective record over the past four years, President Obama should have been fighting for his political life already in April, the President finds himself now with improving approval ratings, the issues falling his way, and an uninspiring candidate against whom to run.