Santorum Says He’ll Stay In The Race

Rick Santorum finished third in South Carolina and there are already suggestions from some corners of the conservative movement that he should drop out of the race at this point, but he doesn’t sound like he’s going anywhere:

Rick Santorum characterized the upcoming Florida primary as the first contest on “neutral turf” and said he felt “no pressure at all” to leave the presidential race after Newt Gingrich’s dominating win in the South Carolina primary.

The former Pennsylvania senator also had harsh words for his remaining rivals during an interview Sunday morning on CNN’s “State of the Union”.

Of Mitt Romney, still the presumptive Republican front-runner, Santorum noted that “he’s lost two of the three contests so far.” Santorum added that when he called Newt Gingrich to congratulate him Saturday night, he felt “no pressure at all” to drop out, and that the two said that “it might be a two-person race between the two people on the phone.”

“I think people now realize Mitt Romney is no longer the inevitable nominee… he’s going through the same thing he did last time,” Santorum said. “It’s not just about how much money you have and how many people you can pay to have help your campaign.”

But Santorum also questioned Newt Gingrich’s conservative credentials, saying the more voters learned about the former House speaker’s policy positions, “the less attractive Newt’s going to be.”

“I disagree with Newt that he’s the conservative standard-bearer,” Santorum said. “[…] He’s wrong on the Wall Street bailout, wrong on global warming, wrong on the immigration issue.”

During an interview on ABC’s This Week, Santorum’s criticism of Gingrich was more pointed, and perhaps points to a very interesting debate on Monday night:

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum attacked Newt Gingrich as a “very high-risk candidate,” who would jeopardize Republican chances of winning back the White House, if he becomes the party’s nominee.

Appearing on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Santorum denounced the former House speaker as an “erratic conservative, someone who on a lot of the issues has been just wrong.”

Santorum called Gingrich “a brilliant guy with a ton of ideas.  The issue is discipline.  The issue is leadership.”

So there you have it. Rick Santorum presenting himself as the sane conservative alternative to Newt Gingrich. It certainly would make for an interesting argument between the two of them and, to a large degree, it is the kind of argument that helps Mitt Romney in his own battle with Gingrich.

It’s hard to see, though, how it is wise for Santorum to spend a huge amount of resources in Florida. For one thing, it’s a very expensive state to mount a campaign in both on the ground and over the airwaves. For another, Florida is a winner take all state; whoever wins the state gets all 50 of the delegates that are at stake. It’s fairly apparently at this point at least that Santorum has pretty much no shot at winning the state and he’s not necessarily going to benefit from spending a lot of money if all that happens is that is percentage of the vote moves up from 12% to 25% he gains absolutely nothing in terms of delegates.

Obviously this raises the question of skipping states that Steven Taylor and I both discussed after Iowa. I’m not necessarily suggesting that Santorum skip the state, but it strikes me he’d be better off looking ahead to some of the caucuses in February if he truly intends to stay in the race and hope that conservatives turn to him as the guy who won’t self-destruct the way that Gingrich seems inevitably destined to do. The same goes for Ron Paul’s campaign, which already seems intent on not going full bore in the Sunshite State for the same reasons. Neither of these men are going to be the nominee, of course, but unless they’re going to drop out now (and they’re not) there seems to be little point in wasting a ton of resources in a state they can’t win when there is no benefit to doing so.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed for too young in July 2021.

Comments

  1. Dammit, I’m still waiting to use a “Republican race tightens as Santorum squeezed out” headline.