After an amazing run beginning with an incredible effort in Iowa, Rick Santorum is about to join the ranks of real conservatives run over by the establishment. It is an honorable tradition. Santorum will ultimately take his place next to the empty grave of Reagan ’76.
The senator has two major problems. The first is that April is perfectly set up to reinforce the narrative of Romney inevitability. Even if Santorum holds serve in Pennsylvania later this month, he is going to suffer a lot of defeat this month.
Newt Gingrich isn’t helping him by dying slowly on the vine. Gingrich’s subsidence happens at the wrong time to help Santorum much in the current contests. His slow fade enervates the whole campaign. Santorum vs. Romney is not as interesting as a race that includes a funny, clever, rascal Newt x-factor.
The second big challenge for Santorum is that his single biggest weapon against Romney is crumbling into powder. Conservatives may have felt somewhat hopeful that the Supreme Court would take our basic form of government seriously in its review of Obamacare, but last week’s events have inspired much more optimism that the GOP candidate will not be needed to slay the dragon, as the Constitution may suffice. If Santorum is no longer able to argue that Romney is unsatisfactory because he can’t draw a contrast on health care, then he loses a great deal.
May sets up great for Rick Santorum, but the question is whether Romney romps through the next several primaries and new hope for an historic repeal of health-care legislation will leave the nice, young man from Pennsylvania bereft of stones for his surprisingly effective sling.
— Hunter Baker is an associate professor of political science at Union University. He is the author of The End of Secularism and the forthcoming Political Science: A Student’s Guide.