3 Reasons Santorum Couldn’t Win

Besides being outspent by Romney and squeezed by Gingrich, he had one more insurmountable hurdle.

Romney walked away with the “winner” narrative on election night, and Santorum was left to look for big bucks elsewhere — and there didn’t appear to be anywhere else to look. Moreover, Santorum’s difficulties were compounded by a lack of infrastructure and organization necessary to successfully challenge Romney’s massive advantage on the ground and on the airwaves.

3. Texas would have had to change its primary rules. Last year Texas submitted its plan to award its 155 delegates on a proportional basis. The Santorum campaign, in an effort to boost its delegate count (assuming it won Texas), backed efforts by Texas supporters to petition the Republican National Committee for a waiver to change to allocating delegates on a winner-take-all basis. The RNC said no.

Despite the apparent difficulties of no organization, no money and no cooperation, Santorum proved himself a true competitor, finding ways to win and, more important, to define the narrative of a primary season that was supposed to have been over within the first six weeks.

Which now raises one question: What happens next? Well, according to Rush Limbaugh, “It leaves us [Republicans] now where the establishment candidate is the nominee.” Santorum raised the specter of that fate when he referred to Romney shortly before the Wisconsin primary as “the same old tired establishment person” whom Republican leaders are trying to “shove down our throat.” In a sense, Limbaugh is right. The GOP establishment won the primary war, but even it doesn’t appear happy about it.

After months of bemoaning the state of “the field” — essentially avoiding the inevitable — the roll call of establishment supporters for Romney began to appear, first as a trickle and then recently as a mini-wave, but always somewhat tepidly. In each instance, the endorsers sounded more interested in defeating President Obama than in actually endorsing Mitt Romney. From Florida Sen. Marco Rubio we got, “There are a lot of other people out there that some of us wish had run for president — but they didn’t. I think Mitt Romney would be a fine president, and he’d be way better than the guy who’s there right now.”

And from former New York Gov. George Pataki came this little ditty: “Now, Mitt is not a perfect candidate. He has a number of problems. It’s hard for blue-collar families like mine to identify with him. It’s hard for economic conservatives to identify with him. He needs to do more to reach out to the Latinos. But I think he has to focus on that and on defeating President Obama as opposed to winning the next primary in the next state, and it’s time to do that.” 

Wow, sign me up.

And therein lies the rub for Mitt. The nomination is his, but he is still haunted by an “anybody but Romney” attitude that has essentially flatlined enthusiasm for him up to now. There’s only one problem: There is nobody left but Romney.

Michael Steele is the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and served as lieutenant governor of Maryland from 2003 to 2007. He is currently a political analyst for MSNBC.

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