In the past couple of weeks, I've probably heard a dozen different Republican operatives say utterly unconvincingly that a lengthy primary season is good for the party. Their nominee will emerge stronger! They get to talk about their issues! No one buys it, particularly since all the evidence (see, for instance, this poll) suggests that the longer the primary goes, the less popular the Republican party in general and these particular Republicans in particular become. For a long time, Mitt Romney had hoped that Super Tuesday would put an end to all this, and he could stop spending his time pandering to his party's extremists and get on with the more serious business of pandering to independent voters. But after last night, Rick Santorum is going nowhere.
And why should he? We can all agree that Santorum, possibly America's most unpleasant politician, will never, ever be president. Whether he knows that I can't say for sure, although I doubt it. But even if he did, is there a reason in the world for him to pull out of this race? Delegates, shmelegates—as long as Republican primary voters keep giving Mitt Romney a collective "Meh," and as long as there are states in the South and Midwest left to vote so Santorum can continue to notch victories here and there (even if they garner him few delegates and thus are mostly symbolic), the former Pennsylvania senator is going to keep going.
Politicians are human, and don't forget that this is the greatest thing that has ever happened to Rick Santorum. Everybody in America is learning his name. He's talking to bigger crowds than he ever did as a Congressman and Senator. He feels the love from millions of his people. Sure, he's getting heat for his 14th century views on sexuality, but for someone like him, the scorn of liberal elitists, uppity feminists, and gay bullies just proves how right he is. I wouldn't be at all surprised if in the quiet moments, he believes that God himself is placing His hand at the back of the Santorum campaign and pushing it forward. And it isn't like Rick has a whole lot of other things he wants to do right now.
So sorry, Mitt. We all know you're going to be the nominee, but Rick Santorum just isn't going to let this go for a while. And that's making Barack Obama very happy.