Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) speaks at a town hall meeting, Oct. 7, 2015, at Briar Cliff University, a Catholic university in Sioux City, Iowa.
Photo by Jerry Mennenga/ZUMA

Santorum poised to quit, GOP field will shrink to nine

Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign was a lot more successful than many remember. Despite his humiliating re-election loss in Pennsylvania in 2006, Santorum managed to win 11 primaries and caucuses in 2012, and he did so on a shoe-string budget and without much of a campaign operation.
 
With those successes in mind, last spring, Santorum reminded RNC officials that over the last half-century, Republicans have nominated just three types of people for president. “No. 1, they were a vice president,” Santorum said. “No. 2, they were the son of a former president. No. 3, they came in second place the election before, and ran again.”
His point was hardly subtle: Santorum fell comfortably into that third category – which meant the former senator had a perfectly credible claim to being the “next in line.” Unfortunately for Santorum, voters didn’t seem to care.
 
Rick Santorum is expected to end his presidential run and throw his support behind a rival candidate during an appearance on Fox News Wednesday night, according to aides.
The news was first reported by CNN and has not been independently confirmed by NBC News.
 
If the reporting is accurate, Santorum’s decision comes on the heels of his 11th place finish in the Iowa caucuses this week, 10 places below his Iowa victory in 2012.
 
Why did Santorum do so much worse in his second campaign than in his first? Probably because he got lucky in 2012: there was a small Republican field; he was the only credible choice for the GOP’s social-conservative wing; and Mitt Romney critics in the party had no one else to turn to.
 
This year, however, the field swelled to 17 people, offering Republican voters a plethora of choices. Santorum never stood much of a chance.
 
At the risk of sounding unkind, the former senator had no meaningful support in the polls, no real campaign operation, and empty campaign coffers. Santorum’s departure from the stage will have no impact on the overall race.
 
That said, those who expected Iowa’s caucus to start winnowing the field were correct. Just this week, three Republicans – Santorum, Rand Paul, and Mike Huckabee – have decided to wrap up their candidacies. Democrat Martin O’Malley did the same.
 
Once Santorum makes it official, the GOP field will shrink to only nine candidates.
 
Postscript: While Santorum didn’t have much of an impact on the race this cycle, I’ll never forget his argument that the State Department should be eliminated altogether because of its commitment to diplomacy. I’ve never heard of an American politician at any level making such a comment, and it was a reminder of just how special a candidate Santorum was.
 
 

Rick Santorum

Santorum poised to quit, GOP field will shrink to nine