On Tuesday night, March 20th, Rick Santorum declared his campaign would keep on fighting in a press conference in Gettysburg, PA. Santorum jetted out of Illinois earlier in the day when exit polls showed he would lose the state, badly and badly he did lose the state.
The symbolism of having a press conference at Gettysburg cannot be understated. Santorum meant to have his press conference in the town. First, it signified that for Santorum losing PA would be the end of the road. He would have nothing else to hang his hat on winning that means something. He has lost every other major state to Romney and trials Romney in delegates by the hundreds. Second, just as the South did with Pickett’s Charge Santorum intends to throw everything into the state and leave little back. Third, and most noticeable is the historical impact of this town, especially among Southerners. These are the voters who inhabit the rural inner “Alabama” of PA between Philly and SE Pennsylvania. Santorum needs them on election day.
To get to PA though come a set of races that Santorum must win. This Saturday Santorum is set to win the LA primaries but what else is new? He wins evangelicals and very conservative voters, a majority of the GOP in the deep South, but few other voters. Then comes April 3rd and primaries in DC, Maryland and WI. Romney is sure to win CT and Maryland but Wisconsin could prove to be a savior or disaster for Santorum. The GOP electorate of WS is far more rural and Midwestern conservative then Illinois, perhaps even Ohio.
But even if Santorum wins WI, and right now the odds are about 50/50 until Romney starts campaigning and pounding the air/TV waves with his message, he is unlikely to make headway in the delegate count. Romney is sure to win DC and Maryland and get a share of the delegates from WI. And no new primaries com up until the end of April on the 24th. Then 231 delegates are up for grab, 72 in PA alone. But PA means more to Santorum than delegates. It is his home state, a fact the media will hammer home again and again on election night, and a swing state. Santorum winning their might keep his campaign alive a little longer, even if he loses NY, RI, DE and CT, the other states that vote that day. Those states have far less rural and more upper-income and educated GOP voters. Plus regionally those states lie in Romney’s geographic zone.
But let’s end the questioning of whether Santorum will even win PA. He won’t. How do I deduce this? Simple. He can’t afford to win it, literally. Santorum will pour money into PA but Romney has far more cash on hand and is attracting new larger donors to his camp. Romney can easily outspend Santorum. Worse for Santorum is that the establishment GOP is now publicly picking a side in the nomination battle, even establishment conservatives such as Jeb Bush. That likely means lawmakers will campaign in the state for Romney. Santorum’s organizational woes will also cost him. In yet another state, Santorum’s campaign failed to file with the state delegate slates for individual Congressional Districts. That means Santorum could win the popular vote in PA but lose the delegate count in the state and of course likely the night regardless of PA’s outcome.
Santorum’s campaign has been living on wing and a prayer since Michigan. Only the fact he has won TN and OK on Super Tuesday has kept talk of him having any chance alive. But now that talk is turning to why he still is in the race? Lacking cash, an organization and a base to build on Santorum is likely to limp into PA, regardless of whether he wins WI or not. Romney may be battered and bruised more by the end of April but the fundamental dynamics of the race will not change. Romney will have a better organization, more cash, and the suburban vote in his pocket when PA votes.
As for Santorum after he loses PA perhaps he should take a note from the South after Pickett’s Charge and leave the field of battle to the victor.
Update: It continues to look ever more likely Romney will win WI and roll into April strong. A new Rasmussen poll found him up 13 and a new Marquette University poll found him up 8 points. The latest Franklin & Marshall poll finds Santorum already slipping at home without Romney having spent a single cent in the race to date. Romny only trals 30%-28% in the survey.