Rick Santorum would love to follow up his victories in Alabama and Mississippi yesterday with some quick, fresh triumphs, partly to offset Mitt Romney’s remoreseless progress in picking up delegates (despite the high-profile losses, Romney secured 40 delegates to Santorum’s 37 yesterday once his wins in Hawaii and American Samoa are factored in), and partly so that he doesn’t stake everything on winning in Illinois on March 20.
But it ain’t looking good for any Santorum cheer over the weekend.
You’d think he’d have a decent shot in Saturday’s Missouri caucuses, since he trounced Romney in the Show-Me-State’s non-binding primary back in February. But as TPM’s Eric Kleefeld reported today, Missouri GOP party leaders decided against holding a presidential straw poll (a common practice in caucus states, most famously Iowa, that select delegates in multiple stages) in conjunction with the caucuses, which are just one stage in the delegate selection process. So even if Santorum does well in packing the event with his fans, no one will really know about it until later in the year.
And nobody much expected Santorum to have a serious chance in Sunday’s primary in Puerto Rico, given Romney’s endorsement from the governor and his strong performance among Puerto Rican voters in Florida back on Jan. 31. But Rick probably lost whatever slim chance he had by telling Puerto Ricans today that they shouldn’t bother applying for statehood (there’s a referendum on the November ballot there to determine if voters want to move in that direction) unless they make English their official, primary language. Sounds like Santorum may have been playing to nativist sentiment on the mainland rather than seeking Puerto Rican votes.
So Santorum better hope he does well in Illinois, or barring that, on March 24 in Louisiana. He doesn’t have much margin for error.