Santorum suspension could unite GOP at last

Just when everyone was settling down for another month (at least) of borderline primary season tedium, it happened. Rick Santorum announced that, after one of the most surprisingly successful primary campaigns in recent memory, he was suspending his run for the Republican nomination to be President of the United States. What was behind this sudden about turn from the conservative who was closest to pushing Mitt Romney for victory? Well it has to be said that the decision seems largely to have been made on personal grounds. With his three year old daughter, Bella, having been hospitalised last week, noted family man Santorum decided to call it a day.

Family man Santorum drops out ©Creative Commons; Image credit: Gage Skidmore

Of course there were political reasons as well, of that there is no doubt. The Santorum team was clearly frustrated with the failure of Newt Gingrich to pull out of the nomination race, a decision which, had it been made by the former Speaker of the House some time ago, could have resulted in Santorum being far closer behind Romney.

Furthermore the Santorum campaign simply could not have continued to compete with Romney financially for much longer. With his huge budget and supportive poll numbers in states like Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania, Romney was making life more and more difficult for Santorum to remain a realistic competitor and no doubt that has taken its toll.

Still, it was a surprising move from a man who, as recently as last week, pledged to remain in the race until one candidate had amassed the delegate count needed for victory.

What is perhaps most interesting about the fallout from this Santorum move is the reaction from the Republican party. At the moment little is clear but this could be just the trigger Republicans have needed to finally get behind Mitt Romney as their candidate for November. Polling has suggested that Santorum supporters will now split between Romney and Gingrich and it is now almost a foregone conclusion that Romney will cruise to victory, especially as he is well ahead of Gingrich in polling in large winner takes all states such as California.

The best thing Newt could do of course would be to drop out but his stubbornness still knows no bounds and as such Santorum’s announcement only prompted him to make a plea for more support from conservatives. Realistically though his campaign must realise that only in their wildest dreams will Gingrich stake a claim to the nomination. His polling simply is not good enough and the amount of states coming up which feature winner takes all delegate allocation figures heavily against him as the Romney team will be able to vastly outspend him in the campaigning stakes.

One candidate who it seems will definitely finish the race alongside Mitt Romney is Ron Paul, the libertarian who has run his campaign to promote an ideal rather than with genuine hopes of victory. Paul could be on the list for potential Vice-President nominees, if so inclined, and so it will be interesting to see what he does when the GOP is forced to eventually put its weight behind Romney as its candidate. How soon that open backing of Romney will be remains an open question but senior party figures must be hoping that attention now finally turns to the fight against Obama and not the fight between Republicans.

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