Political Animal

Blog

March 26, 2012 10:11 AM Rick Finally Wins Catholics; Farewells to Newt Begin

By Ed Kilgore

The greatly diminished media coverage was a tipoff to the fact that not much of anyone thought Rick Santorum’s fairly decisive win (in the popular vote, anyway; so far he’s only won 10 of 46 delegates the state will ultimately take to Tampa) in the Louisiana primary on Saturday changed anything. If he intends to hang around a while, Rick better get used to it.

What most impressed me about the LA event was how declining interest in the nominating contest produced a primary electorate sufficiently rarefied as to produce a fantasyland for Santorum. Half of those participating in the primary defined themselves as “very conservative.” Half called themselves “strong supporters” of the Tea Party. Three-fourths were over the age of 45. Two-thirds claim to attend worship services every week.

Given the ideological cast of the Louisianans who bothered to show up to vote, Santorum’s sweep of most demographic categories was hardly suprising. Rick finally overcame the ignominy of being the Opus Dei-affiliated GOP presidential candidate who in state after state after state couldn’t win the Catholic vote against a Mormon. There is no telling how deeply that traumatized Santorum.

The only real question in terms of the consequences of this primary is whether Gingrich’s dismal third-place finish in a Deep South state would finally drive him from the field. But personally, I don’t see why he should bother to formally withdraw. What’s likely to get him more attention? The ability to horn in on presidential campaign coverage and occasionally get headlines for throwing a bomb at Mitt Romney? Or bending the knee in exchange for a three-minute speaking slot in Tampa, an opportunity to make surrogate appearances in non-competitive states in the fall, and then active consideration for a medium-level ambassadorship?

You have to appreciate that Newt still views himself as a world-historical figure, a colossus straddling two centuries whose greatness will be validated by his fellow-historians. His head regularly has to be deflated before entering rooms, a service that has drained far too much of his limited campaign resources. If he goes quietly, it won’t be out of any sense of self-proportion or party loyalty, but because it serves his own interests.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum has entered the phase of the campaign where he’s spending half his time explaining why he’s still campaigning, which is the kind of thing that leads him to shout obscenities at reporters who are holding up a mirror to his fading image. One by one, conservative opinion-leaders are lining up to endorse Mitt or at least endorse a quick liquidation of the primaries. At some point before too long they’ll stop treating Rick like the skunk at the company picnic and start treating him like an enemy of the realm who will be punished by enternal banishment from Fox News or worse. But he’s already lost the ability to command major media attention. I’d bet in most local TV news markets around the country his Louisiana win got billed well below local traffic snarlups and fires, and perhaps just ahead of features on Easter shopping. It only gets worse from here.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • MBunge on March 26, 2012 10:41 AM:

    Not to argue on behalf of Rick Santorum, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the GOP primary raced being declared "officially unofficially" over just because the Republican establishment and liberals are united in their disdain for Senator Man-on-Dog. Did I miss something, or is there not still a real possiblity that Romney will not have enough delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot?

    Mike

  • SadOldVet on March 26, 2012 10:43 AM:

    One by one, conservative opinion-leaders and Ed Kilgore are lining up to endorse Mitt or at least endorse a quick liquidation of the primaries.

  • Peter C on March 26, 2012 10:51 AM:

    It is striking how little attention Santorum's big win in Louisiana has received. I was away from the news this weekend and hadn't heard until this morning what the results were.

    It shows what contempt the party big-wigs really have for the Evangelical base. They have always been merely the 'supplier of bodies' enabling an upward concentration of wealth and power which has ever been the real objective of the Republican party. By themselves, the 1% cannot easily bend democracy to their service; they need their patsies, and for the Republicans, the ultra-religious have been duped into playing this role.

  • DAY on March 26, 2012 10:55 AM:

    Newt quit?
    Shirley, you jest! He has a warehouse full of books to sell.

  • Rathskeller on March 26, 2012 11:03 AM:

    Only a quarter of those voters were less than 45?? That is staggering.

  • N.Wells on March 26, 2012 11:29 AM:

    I understand that Louisiana has 46 delegates, of which only 20 were available in the primary to be divided proportionally among candidates who win more than 25% of the vote, so Santorum got 10 and Romney got 5, with 5 remaining uncommitted (I'm unclear on why that happened), and those 5 and 23 more are to be decided at a later convention, and 3 are the Louisiana members of the RNC.

    Notwithstanding my glee at seeing any Republican (and especially Santorum) go down in flames, what sort of a democracy has a process where someone who wins the popular vote by not far short of twice the number of his nearest opponent ends up with a guarantee of less than half of the total number of delegates? This seems to be an unhappy reprise of the whole uncommitted "superdelegate" mess in the last democratic primary.

  • schtick on March 26, 2012 11:41 AM:

    The tealiban will never win the REAL Catholics. They may have the arch-bishops and bishops, but the Catholics that vote will not support anyone from the tealiban that will nix birth control. A fake headline straight from Faux Fake and BS Newz or HuffPo?


    crapcha....goethot Buz....buzzing

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on March 26, 2012 12:50 PM:

    One by one, conservative opinion-leaders are lining up to endorse Mitt or at least endorse a quick liquidation of the primaries. At some point before too long they’ll stop treating Rick like the skunk at the company picnic and start treating him like an enemy of the realm who will be punished by enternal banishment from Fox News or worse.

    I'm wondering what's taken these "opinion-leaders" so long. If they didn't care so much for the clown-car procession of amateur crazies that was trotted out this past summer, why the hell did they wait for the GOP version of the Hunger Games to run its course to start backing MittMitt? It didn't take a billionaire career-politician to size up the absolute incompetence of the League of Extraordinarily Crazy Gentleman (and Gentle Lady).Leaders, they are not. More like falling in line behind the least destructive candidate. If Mitt were so great, they would have been behind him all along. But, alas, no White Knight...

    Not saying that Santorum and Newt owe it the GOP to just leave quietly. On the contrary, I know both of these hacks are just too engrossed with their own delusions of grandeur and self-righteousness to take the path that is least likely to end in a vainglorious crash-and-burn of themselves and perhaps the GOP, too. Serves the GOP right for stroking their egos.