by Art Kelly
Rick Santorum could end up with a cabinet appointment--or even as vice president--and the frontrunner for president in 2020.
Santorum had what Slate's John Dickerson calls "one of the most successful runs by an improbable GOP candidate…At the start of the presidential campaign, few in political circles would have predicted that a senator who had lost his last race by 18 points, who had no money, no pollster, and few endorsements could win 11 contests."
Sandhya Somashekhar of the Washington Post wrote, "Virtually no other candidate began the campaign from a lower perch."
Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, recalled that Santorum "got into the race with virtually no endorsements, very little money, and he was an asterisk in the polls."
The Post's Chris Cillizza revealed that, "While he was being ignored in the national conversation, Santorum embarked on what at the time seemed like a quaint strategy: visiting all 99 counties in Iowa."
"While (Mitt) Romney was initially announced as the winner, the Iowa GOP reversed itself more than two weeks later and acknowledged that Santorum had, in fact, received the most votes…Had Santorum been declared the winner in Iowa on the night of the caucuses, it's possible that the race would have taken a different course," Cillizza wrote.
There was not enough time to do the same retail, one-on-one campaigning in other states that Santorum was able to do in the Buckeye State.
Somashekhar believes, "Santorum's decision to suspend his campaign was a concession to the reality that Romney, who has won 660 convention delegates to Santorum's 281, had accumulated a virtually insurmountable lead."
The day after Santorum withdrew, a top campaign official told a private meeting of conservative leaders in Washington, D.C. that, while the former senator could compete with Romney while being outspent by a margin of 10 to 1, he could not compete when the margin was 10 to 0--an admission there were almost no money available for the upcoming primaries.
Santorum had a six-point lead in Pennsylvania, but Romney was poised for massive TV advertising in the Keystone State. It was not hard to foresee the likely outcome of the April 24th primary.
Taegan Goddard of the Political Wire tweeted, "Romney's Death Star was ready to blast Santorum to pieces in his home state, so he drops out instead."
Cillizza believes Santorum has an excellent political future.
"By leaving the race when he did, Santorum did himself considerable political good. He will now be fondly remembered by Republican activists, a status that makes the conservative world his oyster," Cillizza wrote, adding that Santorum could become a media commentator or begin organizing for another presidential bid. In 2020, Santorum would only be 62 years old.
Somashekhar noted that Santorum's supporters "believe he may be poised for a Cabinet post."
And McKay Coppins of the BuzzFeed website reports that Romney says Santorum will be on his list to be considered for vice president.
The Santorum campaign will continue to have a major effect on the 2012 race, according to Somashekhar.
"Santorum's unusual, emotionally driven run will probably have reverberations for the rest of the race. By connecting with evangelical Christians and other deeply conservative Republicans, he exposed Romney's chronic difficulties in winning over those voters. And by invoking his blue-collar roots, he put a face on the struggles of people who work in the manufacturing sector," she wrote.
The Etch-A-Sketch incident has apparently not hurt Romney with Republican primary voters, but recent polls show him running way behind Obama with women. Could Etch-A-Sketch have caused many women to doubt Romney’s sincerity?
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