MARS, Pa. — Imagine a footrace, but only one runner is on the track.
That essentially is the situation for Rick Santorum. He is all suited up and ready to go. “The clock starts tonight,” he told supporters here Tuesday night, hoping to start fresh after losses in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
But as far as Mitt Romney, his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination, is concerned, that clock has run out.
If you look at the results from Wisconsin last night, if Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich had dropped out of the race...hell, if just GINGRICH left the race, then Santorum probably takes Wisconsin. This would have made Santorum an actual credible threat to Romney despite the slack in delegates.
Indeed, if Gingrich and Paul dropped out and gave all their delegates to Santorum, he'd still be seventy short right now, and looking at a yawning four hundred delegate gap by May 1. Not insurmountable, to be sure, but that's only if Gingrich and Paul drop out. Right now, his deficit is insurmountable.
See, Santorum and Romney have this odd dynamic working: If the evangelical Christian vote is over 50%, Santorum wins. If it's under 50, Romney wins. Wisconsin would have been the first state to flip that (Iowa came close).
Santorum is running into a roadblock in April: the only primaries from here on out are in the Northeast, prime Romney territory.
Indeed, Romney can embarass the hell out of Santorum by taking Pennsylvania. This means two things:
1) It will be the second straight statewide election in his home state that Santorum loses and
B) It takes Santorum out of consideration for the Veep nom. After all, do you want someone on your ticket who can't even guarantee his home state?
And now that brings the illogic of a continuing Santorum campaign into sharp focus. If you presume that Santorum is taking this to a floor fight-- his best case scenario is that Romney enters the convention with only 1122 committed delegates and 22 short of the magic number, but this excludes super- and uncommitted delegates-- then the logical conclusion is Santorum is running for reasons other than the nomination. The logical alternative is to show he's a capable fighter even against long odds (which the GOP faces in spades this year) and an almost automatic VP nominee.