“Bye Bye Rick Santorum," Left in Alabama tweeted this afternoon. "Time to shake the Etch-a-Sketch.” But does Santorum’s exit from the GOP race really give Mitt Romney a chance to wiggle back toward the center? Not without a level of finesse that the presumptive nominee’s campaign has failed to show so far. The surprising staying power of the hardest-core conservative in the race made it tougher for Romney to take less-than-extreme positions on reproductive rights, immigration, or damn near anything else. And the base voters who backed Santorum must still be wooed and reassured. Romney has spent most of this campaign taking the "severest" stances possible to sooth these folks. Most remain unsoothed.
How much room Romney has to maneuver also depends, to a lesser degree, on how Santorum decides to handle his loss to the man he declared was “the worst Republican in the country to put up against Obama.” Will he make nice and be a loyal soldier, endorsing Romney (whom he didn’t mention today) and keeping quiet about his erstwhile opponent’s conservative apostasies? Or will he try to position himself as leader of the right-wing purity movement, perhaps with an eye toward 2016? Until the end, Santorum never let up on Romney, as his recent attack ad—which accused Romney of many of President Obama’s most heinous sins against conservative orthodoxy—vividly demonstrated. Walking it back will demolish his credibility with the conservatives for whom, as the Prospect’s Jamelle Bouie writes, he became “the vessel for conservative discontent." But what's more important, as we move into general-election mode, is that Romney can't erase the hard-line positions Santorum was instrumental in forcing him to take.
So They Say
“What I tried to bring to the battle was what Abraham Lincoln brought to this battlefield back in 1863, November 19th. He talked about this country being conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
—Rick Santorum, surrendering at Gettysburg
Daily Meme: The Twitterverse Strikes Back
- @pourmecoffee: Rick Santorum suspending his campaign to be President of the 1950s.
- @daveweigel: Santorum won more counties! Just not the ones that more people lived in.
- @BenjySarlin: "If Mitt Romney runs, he's going to have a hard time defeating Rick Santorum first for sure." -Nobody before January 2012
- @sethmeyers21: About to sit down Samberg and tell him he's not going to play the President. This part of the job is never easy.
- @aseitzwald: Once and future Fox News contributor Rick Santorum suspended his presidential campaign today…
- @timothypmurphy: "Why I'm leaving the GOP primary."
- @rosiepgray: Santorum: "Amazing thing, that sweater vest."
- @indecision: Ron Paul's campaign announced he will stay in the race. Also, apparently, he is still in the race.
What We're Writing
- Jamelle Bouie: Like it or not, Romney owns the GOP war on women.
- Patrick Caldwell: Paul Ryan says some congressional Democrats actually like his budget. Names are not named.
What We're Reading
- Daily Intel: "It is unclear at this point whether God will even bother to offer anyone his apparently useless endorsement in the general election."
- 2012 looks like it will be like the last year where endorsing gay marriage is a contentious issue for the Democratic candidate.
- Hillary Clinton submits an entry to the Texts From Hillary Tumblr. The Internet is won.
- Gawker has a mole at Fox News. This could be fun.
- Margaret Talbot: Republicans, “Girls,” and sexual freedom.
- Greg Sargent: How Republicans are losing the inequality argument.
- Mike Huckabee launches his new “not Rush” radio show by slamming the president.
Poll of the Day
The latest ABC/Washington Post poll shows Obama leading Romney among women by the largest margin yet: 19 points. Another key finding: 49 percent say Obama “better understands the economic problems people in this country are having,” as opposed to 37 percent for Romney.
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