Santorum Folds

As he just announced, Rick Santorum is “suspending” his presidential campaign, which is pol-speak for folding. He didn’t attribute it to his daughter’s illness, and also didn’t come right out and say he had been beaten. But he was, certaintly by the time he lost Ohio, and perhaps earlier–say, when Foster Friess proved unable or unwilling to give his Super-PAC twenty or thirty million bucks to achieve parity with the Mitt Machine.

It has to be frustrating to Team Santorum that he fell just short of making it to the oasis of May primaries in southern and Great Plains states that might have given him some late wins and even perhaps some leverage with Romney going into the convention, the general election campaign, and a hypothetical Romney administration–not to mention some 2016 street cred if there is no Romney administration. It’s also entirely possible, of course, that if Santorum had hung in there until April 24, he would have gotten waxed in Pennsylvania, which might have made some May Flowers renaissance unlikely, while giving him the prospect of potentially ending his political career with two consecutive rebukes from the home folks.

In any event, this saves Romney and his friends a lot of money, and in theory at least, moves up his timetable for placating his intraparty foes, planning a convention, and getting the etch-a-sketch fired up for the main event.

There will be some what-ifs expressed about Santorum, particularly from those who think he self-destructed by getting a little too theocratic. I’m personally already on record as disagreeing. He danced with the ones that brung him: the people who think legalized abortion is a Holocaust, that same-sex relationships are a sign of moral collapse, that “traditionalist” Catholics and evangelical conservatives represent the only line of resistance against a Satanic takeover of the West, that a Middle Eastern Holy War is America’s destiny. It was enough to make him the winner of the much-contested subprimary to become the Conservative Alternative To Mitt Romney, but not enough to give someone with his many limitations the nomination.

I’ll miss him for the blogging material he so richly supplied, and do wish he had stuck around long enough to provoke a few more Romney gaffes and perhaps Romney defeats. But I’m glad I can go back to wearing sweater vests without fear of misunderstanding.

Now we get to see if Newt Gingrich tries to pretend he’s the last True Conservative Standing, or will just let us all have a break from the Great Republican Race to the Right of 2012.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.