Monday, January 30, 2012

What Happens If...?

First, I'm not going to snark on a dying child. No one, no matter how misguided they may be or how evil their opinions may be, should be teased about something like that.
Second, of course, I'm talking about Rick Santorum and the health scare of his young daughter that forced him off the campaign trail this weekend, ahead of the Florida primary. It got me to thinking: what happens if the worst scenario unfolds?
Santorum stands a pretty good chance of making a case for continuing his campaign in the Florida primary: his religion and his religious nature certainly appeal to one or two of the three ethnic groups in Florida, as according to Bill Maher ("Jews, Cubans, and rednecks").
A strong third or even, heaven forbid, swiping second from a faltering Gingrich, would place Santorum squarely back in the hunt.
This would, of course, do two things: it would force Mitt to extend the primary season by at least a few more weeks and to divide his fire across two camps, and it would offer more Not-Mitt alternatives that people can choose. It's not a secret that the lion's share of Republicans neither like nor trust Mitt, but factions have their different reasons.
I suspect the Newt faction is the faction that dislikes the individual mandate that Romneycare imposed on Massachussetts' citizenry. This is the faction that really dislikes healthcare in any way shape or form, preferring to see people die in the streets than provide a sick person a hospital bed.
The Santorum faction, of course, is the faction that dislikes Mitt, or more likely mistrusts him, for his Mormonism. Santorum is Catholic, and while that dismays many Evangelicals, it's a damned sight more palatable than someone wearing magic underwear and re-baptizing the dead.
So if Santorum has to drop out, quo vadis? (OK, correctly, "quo ibunt?" but I couldn't resist the Biblical reference). Newt's recent seeing of the light has generally been viewed as a sham, a desperate pandering political ploy, and really serves only as a calculated rationalization by those who are devout but more devoutly devoted to their wallets instead.
The Santorum faction, the hard-core ones, at any rate, probably number no more than fifteen percent in Florida. Anything he pulls beyond that is either Not-Mitt or Not-Gingrich. The most recent Marist poll shows Santorum the only candidate to increase his poll numbers after last week's debate. It seems he stole equally from Romney and Gingrich, altho it's hard to be certain.
So here's the scenario that I think Romney is hoping for: After tomorrow, Newt, who has said a strong Florida showing will be the reason to keep his campaign alive, flails and ends up in a surprising third. He drops out.
Then, Santorum, for his personal reasons, agrees to drop his campaign and unite behind Romney, putting his name in the hat for Veep and angling for a 2016 run after Romney gets swamped in the fall.
That scenario, at least vote-wise, seems pretty likely. Whether the egos involved can see the logic behind is awaits to be seen.