It is not quite over.
It seems virtually impossible that anybody will match Mitt Romney in votes or delegates. That gives the former Massachusetts governor a huge moral claim on the nomination, even if he ultimately falls short of the necessary 1,144 delegates.
Rick Santorum’s strategy moving forward now mirrors Newt Gingrich’s from a few weeks ago: hope that a decisive win in his home state gives his campaign a jumpstart. If that plays out, Santorum could theoretically match Romney’s claim by asserting that he won the late contests and thus best represents the current sentiment of the party, similar to the arguments of Ronald Reagan in 1976 and Ted Kennedy in 1980.
There are two huge problems with this. First, the remaining states tilt decisively toward Mitt Romney, so a reboot in Pennsylvania means he will then have to start winning voters he has been losing all cycle. Second, it is not clear that Santorum will win Pennsylvania. The polls are tight, and Romney has enormous structural advantages that he can bring to bear, especially in the expensive media market of Philadelphia.
So, Santorum’s strategy is plausible but exceedingly unlikely to pan out. As a candidate who has kept things tight in many important states, he has the right to give it a shot.
— Jay Cost is the author of the forthcoming Spoiled Rotten: The Story of How the Democratic Party Embraced Special Interests, Abandoned the Public Good, and Came to Stand for Everything It Once Opposed.