This week, a number of news outlets have reported a conspicuous drop in Santorum’s typical strident rhetoric against Gov. Romney. I believe this is a less than subtle way to position himself to exit the race. Yesterday’s New York Times reported,
Rick Santorum has eased up on using phrases like “worst Republican in the country” when tearing into Mitt Romney. And he is no longer saying that a vote for Mr. Romney would be basically the same thing as a vote for President Obama.
Meet subdued Santorum.
After several highly publicized remarks that left many in his party questioning whether he had crossed the line in attacking a fellow Republican, Mr. Santorum has struggled to find the balance between being a tenacious underdog and leaving himself open to criticism that he is just an embittered also-ran.
The sudden restraint has surprised some of his supporters.
Senator Santorum is not stupid; think about it. Just a few days ago, he rips Gov. Romney publicly and that very same day publicly states he would consider a veep position under a President Romney. Yes, I did a double-take as well! But why let up now? The NYT article even quotes his supporters saying that his “passionate” language is one of the things most appealing.
Here is the reason I believe. There are eight primaries between now and April 24th. Romney is expected to win six of them and probably by a wide margin. The other two are Wisconsin (4/3) and Pennsylvania (4/24). As of 7:30 p.m. PST tonight, Intrade shows the probability of a Santorum win in Wisconsin at 11.8% and a win in his home state of Pennsylvania at 31.1%. The other six states are below 5% except Connecticut (6.8%). Above, I said Santorum is not stupid. He is looking at these same probabilities and he is thinking now.
Here is where the dew of reality is descending upon Santorum’s thoughts.
Rick Santorum’s private thoughts (my conjecture):
“Wow! I could lose this thing fast in the next few weeks. I have to win. I put too much into this thing with my wife, my children, and Bella — And dang it, I worked harder than the other guys and I deserve to win! I have to win Wisconsin to build the momentum into my home state but Mitt is so much more prepared and his machine is killing me in Wisconsin. I have to win Pennsylvania! If I lose Wisconsin, that will not be good going into Pennsylvania! Mitt is picking up steam in Pennsylvania this week. I have to win Pennsylvania! Having to answer to that dang 18 point loss in my senate race in 2006 has been shear [pain] in this race — embarrassing! There is no way I will lose Pennsylvania — No way!”
Do you see where Rick’s mind is right now? Can he win Wisconsin next Tuesday? Absolutely he can if we let up at all. I strongly believe Governor Romney has Santorum in a strangle hold with Wisconsin, especially if he trounces him Tuesday. Romney will likely smash Santorum in DC and Maryland and if he has a really strong win in Wisconsin, Santorum will be all but dead going into Pennsylvania.
Bloomberg Businessweek reported in February:
Yet six years ago, as he sought a third Senate term in Pennsylvania, Santorum proved he can also lose in such a politically competitive state — and lose big.
Santorum’s last race — an 18-percentage-point defeat in 2006 bid — raises questions about his appeal to independent voters who could help decide the national election in November, as well as to Republicans who will determine who gets the party’s nomination.
Santorum’s loss was “the largest defeat by a Republican United States senator seeking election or re-election in modern Pennsylvania history,” said G. Terry Madonna, a polling expert and public affairs professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.
So think about it. If I am Santorum and I know I now have two choices (after losing Wisconsin): 1) I could do what I have said I would do and stay in the race all the way to the convention (remember: “principle”) and lose Pennsylvania and be thoroughly embarrassed again, or 2) I could exit stage right and declare my loyal support to Romney and hear everybody cheer me to glory.
How does Santorum avoid losing Pennsylvania again?
If Santorum were to lose Wisconsin to Romney, which do you think he will choose? 1? or 2? I predict Wisconsin will be another close race but that Romney will win it. If this happens, Santorum will “evaluate” the race at that point and decide to exit entirely. What seems hard to predict is when he would make that announcement. I think it would likely be the weekend following the Wisconsin primary and not a lot later so that it does not appear to be correlated with a fear of embarrassment — which a loss in his home state certainly would be.
The most compelling argument for Santorum to attempt a graceful exit from the race, upon losing Wisconsin, is this (he is not stupid — Santorum is the epitome of the political animal): He wants a future in politics — and presidential politics at that. If he were to lose Pennsylvania bad (very good possibility), he would be almost for sure pushed out of the race with people laughing, and his political reputation would be all but destroyed.
If he were then to attempt to run for POTUS in future years, it will always be remembered of him that he could not win reelection (2006) to the Senate in his home state (historically huge loss) and that he bad-mouthed Romney for months before being trounced again in his home state of Pennsylvania (2012). And why? Because of a) a huge ego, b) stubbornness, and c) strident social positions. He would be washed up and would forever be overlooked as a serious national candidate. He will not allow that to happen — not when he can control the outcome now.
As we say in business, the risk-reward consideration is making this untenable for Mr. Santorum. I think the probability that Santorum will compete in Pennsylvania is less than five percent.
He will not allow himself to be embarrassed. Not by Governor Romney!
GO MITT! Let’s all work as hard as we can to bring a HUGE win to Mitt in Wisconsin — We do not want the Wisconsin results to even be close! We can finish off Santorum next Tuesday.
“As the world’s finest democracy, we do not do guillotines. But there are other less bloody rituals of humiliation, designed to reassure the populace that order is restored, the Republic cleansed.” ~ William Greider
Exit Question: What is a One Term Obama Presidency Worth to You?