Santorum stands down

Updated
 
Santorum stands down
Santorum stands down
Associated Press

A week ago today, Rick Santorum, having lost three primaries, talked tough about the future. “We have now reached the point where it’s halftime,” he told supporters. “Half the delegates in this process have been selected, and who’s ready to charge out of the locker room in Pennsylvania for a strong second half?”

It didn’t sound like a guy pondering withdrawal. Seven days later, however, faced with an ailing family member, dwindling support, and enormous odds, Santorum decided to call it a day.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum suspended his campaign on Tuesday, clearing Mitt Romney’s path to the Republican presidential nomination.

Citing weekend reflection with his family, prompted in part by a hospital stay for his youngest daughter, Santorum suspended his campaign, effective today.

“Ladies and gentleman, we made the decision to get into this race at our kitchen table against all the odds,” Santorum said in remarks to reporters in Gettysburg, Pa. “We made a decision over the weekend that while this presidental race for us is over for me and we will suspend our campaign effective today. We are not done fighting.”

Santorum’s decision effectively ends the race for the Republican presidential nomination, and allows Mitt Romney to begin its vice-presidential vetting process in earnest, if it hasn’t started already.

Stepping back and considering the larger context, it may be tempting to dismiss Santorum’s presidential campaign as something of a joke. It was underfunded and disorganized, led by an unfocused candidate pushing a cultural/social message that seemed badly out of step with voters’ priorities. Even when Santorum enjoyed the national lead for a brief time, there was always a lingering sense that his frontrunner status could not and would not last.

But in a strange sort of way, I consider the Santorum campaign one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in presidential politics in quite a while.

Putting aside his ideas, vision, values, policy positions, and agenda, much of which I find abhorrent and offensive, Santorum has done something I honestly didn’t think was possible. Just six years ago, he ran for re-election in his home state and lost by 18 points, one of the most humiliating defeats for an incumbent senator in American history. When Santorum launched his presidential bid last year, it was derided as a pointless vanity exercise by, among others, me.

For months, Santorum failed to raise money, failed to hire a campaign staff, failed to create a campaign structure, failed to create a base of supporters, and failed to impress in the endless stream of candidate debates. A couple of weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Santorum was in the low single-digits in national GOP polls – he was neck and neck with Huntsman – and was generally considered an afterthought, when he was considered at all.

And yet, despite having very little money, no staff, no organization, few endorsements, an unimpressive legislative record, and a weak message, Rick Santorum managed to beat Mitt Romney 10 times during the Republican nominating race (Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana). The total reaches 11 if you include Missouri’s pseudo primary in February.

That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. Romney had every possible advantage and looked to have the race wrapped up in January, and yet, Santorum managed to push the race into mid-April. Sure, some of this is the result of Romney being such a weak frontrunner, but Santorum nevertheless saw a lot of booms and busts (Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich), and managed to somehow hang on and give Romney a run for his money.

Will Santorum ever be president? Almost certainly not. But as he suspends his campaign and leaves the trail, he’s nevertheless pulled off an impressive feat.

Rick Santorum

Santorum stands down

Updated