Political Animal


March 14, 2012 8:49 AM Santorum Pulls the Upset

By Ed Kilgore

Rick Santorum was both good and lucky on March 13, winning in Alabama and Mississippi just as the great political god named Expectations figured him to be fading into irrelevance. Instead, it was Mitt Romney, the late favorite to win both states and all but wrap up the GOP nomination, who finished third.

As was the case on Super Tuesday, Romney figures to win something close to a majority of delegates chosen on the night thanks to late wins in caucuses in Hawaii and American Samoa. But that hardly matters to the media narrative or the overall impact on the race. Though he unsurprisingly said he’d sojourn on to the convention, Newt Gingrich is now all but eliminated having lost in the one part of the country where he’d had success. So Santorum will get his long awaited one-on-one shot at Romney (ignoring Ron Paul, who finished a poor fourth in AL and MS) having won the mantle of “conservative alternative to Mitt” that’s been so intensely contested since the candidates first set foot in Iowa early last year.

More about the race-that-won’t-end later.

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.


  • Ron Byers on March 14, 2012 9:04 AM:

    You all realize that most of Gingrich's votes would have gone to Santorium if Gingrich had dropped out. That means Santorium would have won about 60% in both states. Romney, for all his super pac money and just get in line support from the big wig elites, is in deep trouble. So is the Republican party.

  • T2 on March 14, 2012 9:10 AM:

    the losses in AL and Mississippi show three things, two quite predictable. FIrst, Evangelicals aren't voting for a Mormon. Second, southerner will vote for a Yankee provided he is a racist homophobe mysoginist of the first order. The third, Newt Gingrich is not a person people like. And isn't it about time Ron Paul stopped?

    As Ed's post mentioned, the heavily Mormon Hawaii and Samoa went for Romney, no surprise here. As a matter of fact, take a look at the states Romney has won handily in and you'll note they all feature a large LDS vote base. Make Mitt a Methodist, and he'd lose every state. With the exception, possibly, of Kennedy in 62, never has a candidate gotten such total support from a single religious affiliation. Is that good?

  • citizen_pain on March 14, 2012 9:18 AM:

    If the neo-confederates want to cast their lot with mr. 12th century mentality, by all means. They don't have the right however to take us all backwards in time.

    I wish they'd all pack up their bags and move to some island where they can live out their white christian utopia.
    Let the rest of us evolve and move forward, tackling 21st century challenges.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on March 14, 2012 9:18 AM:

    So 70 people in American Samoa dish out 6 delegates while it takes about 50,000 in Mississippi to do the same? Plus, if I'm understanding MS's delegate pledges correctly, Romney's third place victory (with the help of 1 soft pledge) will essentially have tied Santorum with 13.

    Romney isn't running away with the nomination, but he is damn sure walking away with it.

  • Bo on March 14, 2012 9:19 AM:

    Gingrich will remain a "Santorum surrogate" for so long as his sugar-daddy Adelson continues to fund him. In the end, he will throw his delegates Ricky's way and extract some giant obligation from him.
    In the meantime, the ongoing three-ring circus that is the GOP nomination race will drone on while the economy continues to grow, gas prices moderate and jobs accelerate. At the end of it all, the successful GOP nominee will look around and wonder what happened. He will be so damaged from the process and so bereft of talking points against Obama that he will finally realize what happened -- he succeeded in becoming the "sacrificial lamb" in the November election and he will also be blamed for the GOP's loss of the House and decreased influence in the Senate.

  • mudwall jackson on March 14, 2012 9:21 AM:


    dont you think that romney might have won ala. and miss. if he HAD been methodist? his mormonism cuts both ways. which in 2012 is kind of sad.

  • This Guy on March 14, 2012 9:25 AM:

    Why does everyone make me have to say it?

    Mitt your never going to be president. Everyone who doesn't already own you, do not like you. Your own party is willing to commit suicide to avoid being stuck with you.

  • T2 on March 14, 2012 9:27 AM:

    no I don't, Mudwall. "cheesy grits" ??? the guy's a stiff Carpetbagger who'll probably never set foot south of the Mason-Dixon line once the election is over (not counting a vacation home in Palm Beach).

  • AndThenThere'sThat on March 14, 2012 9:28 AM:

    Correction: American Samoa, with the addition of 3 super delegates, makes 9.

    By my math, last night Romney won 40 delegates and Santorum won 32.

    Guess you could say Romney is briskly walking away with the nomination. This thing is over.

  • Hedda Peraz on March 14, 2012 9:30 AM:

    Newt will waddle into Tampa with a pocketful of miracles-er, pledged delegates,- and that will be worth more than a Get Out of Jail Free card. . .

  • ComradeAnon on March 14, 2012 9:34 AM:

    I know it's easy to be a Wednesday morning quarterback, but 2 heavily evangelical, still-in-the-confederacy states going for the evangelical, still-in-the-17th century candidate isn't much of a shocker.

  • Kathryn on March 14, 2012 9:36 AM:

    Did you folks know that Romney suggested out loud that Santorum wasn't tough enough on abortion. This morning I saw him speaking with Wolf Blitzer about Santorum lying and how you couldn't trust a candidate who lies, he's cracking up. How do you not laugh in his face?

  • boatboy_srq on March 14, 2012 9:39 AM:

    It never ceases to amaze me that a major political entity in the 21st century US remains compelled to return the country to a time when Teh Wimmins and Teh Brown Peeps knew their place and caveat emptor ruled the marketplace. We need a new Dickens in the worst way.

    One understands all too well how carpetbaggers did so well not so long ago.

    @citizen_pain: they tried that 150 years ago: building their own little nation so they could carry on being hateful, bigoted control freaks. I agree with history that HOW they did that was wrong, but I can't help wondering WHETHER they succeeded might have been right in the long term.

  • DKDC on March 14, 2012 9:49 AM:

    @AndThenThere'sThat - Agree that Mitt's briskly walking away with the nomination. Even if Newt and Ron Paul threw all of their delegates to Santorum, he still wouldn't have as many delegates as Romney.

    Yet, there is something amazing about the phenomenon that unfolds before us; that despite Romney's money and organization he is struggling with his party's base as well as the media narrative. Fascinating!

  • Robert on March 14, 2012 9:51 AM:

    When the South secedes again and we let them go, little dicky can be their president and guide them back to the depths of ignorance.

  • Celui on March 14, 2012 9:55 AM:

    I continue to remain deeply appalled by the propensity of voters in these Republican primaries to wish for the 'good old days' of overt racism, Jim Crow, misogyny, pregnant-and-barefoot, pseudo-Christian values when it suits them, and this move toward a Santorum-esque theocracy is just plain crazy. How much of this comedy can voters be expected to swallow when November comes around and really hard issues are to be considered? Romney and Santorum are cut from the same cloth: try to figure out where you are, get a bit of background valued into your speech, shake a few fingers toward 'that one' and then go on to the next stop. The culture wars haven't become a thing of the past, they are the present's point thrust in this battle of election primates. These are issues that, in the words of a court drama, are already 'asked and answered.' Go home to your estates, all of you pretenders.

  • Rick B on March 14, 2012 10:00 AM:

    @T2 (9:10 AM) - Excellent points.

    My question is what was the impact of the social Republicans? Did they give Santorum the edge he had. Don't forget that they had the Texas meeting about a month ago and decided to all support Santorum.

    If so, could last night be fairly characterized as the Republican LDS voters against the social Republican (evangelical non-LDS) voters?

    Ron Paul isn't going to stop because he is not running for President. He is running to push the Republican Party to the right into Libertarianism (and to make a profit doing it.) He loves the limelight too much to stop running, and since he is not running for reelection to Congress this is his swan song.

    @Bo (9:21 AM) and @This guy (9:25 AM) - Romney will still get the Republican nomination. Right now that's not worth too much, but Romney is playing this like a poker game. As long as he doesn't have to place a big bet to stay in the game he'll continue to draw cards in hopes that somehow a miracle will happen and he draws a straight flush. You know - like might happen if Israel tries to bomb Iran.

  • rrk1 on March 14, 2012 10:09 AM:

    The Rethugs continue to campaign for Obama. Last night's results will please the media and encourage the horse race narrative. That doesn't hurt Obama either. A slugfest all the way to Tampa will hardly end there. How does the series of cults that has become the GOP suddenly unite behind any of the current clowns, or moreover someone entirely different emerging from a chaotic convention?

    Republicans are supposed to fall in line, but with all the vitriol, name-calling and mud-slinging that has provided so much entertainment for over a year already, how does Gingrich now endorse Romney and not look more like the fool he is? Will Santorum campaign for Romney? Or will he be the V.P. candidate? The entertainment has just begun.

    Redistricting and voter suppression are just about all the Rethugs have, and of course the tsunami of money provided by the Super PACs. And we call this a free and fair democratic election? Really.

  • wheresthebeef on March 14, 2012 10:12 AM:

    Ummmm...I think that the term is "soldier on," not "sojourn on." Just sayin'.

  • T2 on March 14, 2012 10:12 AM:

    and with all Romney's travails, TPM's Poll this morning has him beating Obama in the General Election by 1%. Go figure......or are we as a nation considerably more racist than we thought? What else could there be to favor Romney over Obama? The guy can't even win his own party's primary in anything close to a convincing manner, yet out-polls a sitting president.

  • martin on March 14, 2012 10:13 AM:

    Bad news is, riding on Santorum's coattails, Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore won 50% of the vote in a 3 way race for Chief Justice in the Repub primary. This means no runoff and Moore will face a Democratic non-entity in the election and more than likely will return to the AL Supreme Court. He more than likely will bring back the rock. More than likely will get sued again. More than likely will refuse to follow a Federal Court order again. More than likely will be removed from office again. More than likely will be a right-wing hero again.

    Lather. Rinse. Vomit. Repeat.

  • T2 on March 14, 2012 10:17 AM:

    correction: now TPM's tracker poll has Obama up on Romney. there is HOPE after all.

  • Diane Rodriguez on March 14, 2012 10:31 AM:

    In my good dreams, I long for some pudit to ask Santorum to distinuguish his position, on the role of women ( and generally, education) from that of those who follow Sharia. Besides the Burka of course. Sharia-evangelist?

  • ltc on March 14, 2012 11:46 AM:

    Not an upset...southerns ain't gonna vote for the non-Christian romney.

  • Zorro on March 14, 2012 12:25 PM:

    "Welcome back, my friends, to the race that never ends..."

    And, as for Ron Paul "running to push the Republican Party to the right into Libertarianism," I would note that Libertarianism doesn't fit neatly into the left-right spectrum as commonly imagined. Some of Paul's views- very anti-imperial, anti-drug war- are not at all in the right wing camp. Some- abolishing the Departments of Energy and Education, for instance- are quite right wing. Others- end national abortion rights, but allow states to decide on their own- don't fit easily into either camp.

    To be perfectly honest, I find true libertarianism to be less offensive than the brand of conservatism practiced by today's GOP. Note that I don't consider Ron or Rand Paul to be truly libertarian, as their personal anti-choice positions run contrary to the best definition I've ever heard for libertarianism, which is "pro-choice on everything."


  • cmdicely on March 14, 2012 12:27 PM:

    I know it's easy to be a Wednesday morning quarterback, but 2 heavily evangelical, still-in-the-confederacy states going for the evangelical, still-in-the-17th century candidate isn't much of a shocker.

    Rick Santorum isn't an evangelical Christian ("evangelical" as a term for a subset of Christianity originated in a broad sense as equivalent to "Protestant" and has evolved into use for a subset of Protestantism, you can't be a Catholic and be an evangelical, in the same way that a plane figure in Euclidean space can't both be a triangle and a square.)

    Rick Santorum is a traditionalist Catholic, a member of group that bears about the same relationship to Catholics generally as fundamentalists (or "traditionalist evangelicals") bear to Protestants generally

  • Zorro on March 14, 2012 2:03 PM:

    To echo cmdicely's observation, I find it odd that Santorum is doing so well among evangelicals, given that evangelicals have traditionally *hated* Catholics. Maybe it's not so much that they identify w/Santorum's brand of Catholicism as that they fear more the prospect of a Mormon- who they don't consider Christian at all- winning.


  • emjayay on March 14, 2012 2:30 PM:

    Evangelicals speak in "tongues" (gibberish) and Rick no doubt wants to speak in ununderstandable Latin at Mass. All of his patriarchal and anti women and anti gay views are identical with those of the evangelicals. Rick homeschooled his kids. Or rather, his formerly with an abortion doctor wife did, while collecting money from a state they didn't actually live in. So, close enough.

    Romney: Mormon. So, not that complicated. Except that Mormons are all white and blonds.

  • ComradeAnon on March 14, 2012 8:14 PM:

    Ok, so Frothy doesn't meet the technical definition of evangelical. But compared to Newt and Romney, I think he's an evangelical to Alabama and Mississippi.