And just like that, our sunny days of Rick Santorum jokes have come to an end. The senator from Pennsylvania, whose name became hilarious almost overnight, dropped out of the presidential race yesterday during a speech to supporters at Gettysburg, taking with him any hopes America had of banning pornography and contraceptives.
While Santorum mounted a spirited (read: terrifying) race for someone who espoused his particular brand of conservative values, he nonetheless failed to slow the momentum of Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney. Santorum trailed Romney nearly 3:1 in delegates but still managed to snag an impressive 272 during his campaign. And unless he decides to put himself behind one of the other candidates, those delegates remain off the table for anyone to snatch up.
The move was a well-calculated decision on the senator’s part. Should Santorum choose to run again in 2016, he has succeeded in establishing himself as a staunch social conservative who exited the race with a strong base and without a technical loss. Playing on his daughter’s recent health issues was another powerful maneuver, as many will attribute his decision to pull out of the race to his commitment as a father and “family man.”
So what happens now? If any doubts still lingered on Romney’s candidacy, they have evaporated along with all traces of Santorum, who may yet rise from the grave for a tasty VP or cabinet position. Gingrich trails the frontrunner by more than 400 delegates, and Ron Paul has yet to win a state (fear not, libertarians, Paul’s still in it to win it). With Santorum out of his hair, Romney is free to rebrand himself as the moderate that might win him the Independent vote. And though the margin of approval between him and Obama is at a solid 7%, Romney may close that gap with his financial platform as he turns his attention away from the Republican vote that he has all but secured.
While Romney may have clinched the nomination, he’s failed to avoid the wrath of one of the more unlikable fringe groups to have been born in recent years. Anything but inconsistent, Birthers have called Romney’s birth certificate into question, citing the fact that his father was born in a Mexican colony formed by the candidate’s great-grandfather, who fled the states in order to remain married to his four wives. The Birthers have sued California Secretary of State Debra Bowen for not checking the eligibility of the candidates earlier – a valid concern, since it’s not like Romney was a governor (or Obama a senator), or anything.
Regardless of the shenanigans that will doubtless occur in the coming months, one thing is certain: Election season is far from over.