Forum: Santorum Drops Out

Rick Santorum Attends Caucus Night Event

Rick Santorum has suspended his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Photo: Getty Images


The following article and quotes are based on the April 11 episode of Forum.

By Don Clyde

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum suspended his presidential campaign Tuesday, effectively handing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney a lock on the Republican nomination to run against Barack Obama.

Santorum was in a distant second place, but had won 11 primaries, more than many experts expected.

He pulled out of the race citing concerns over his young daughter who is experiencing health problems due to a genetic disorder.

But many analysts say polling data showed Santorum faced uphill battles in many primaries, including his home state of Pennsylvania. He recently experienced big primary losses in Maryland and Wisconsin.

Los Angeles Times political writer Mark Barabak speculated that Santorum might have pulled out of the race to consider a more opportune chance in the future.

“I think Rick Santorum must have, at least as part of his calculation, been looking down the road and thinking that ‘I’m a pretty young fellow — 53-years-old. If Mitt Romney were to lose, I’m surely going to be positioned as the front-runner,’” Barabak said.

But how will Romney shift his campaign strategy now that the staunchly conservative Santorum has exited the race?

Some say that to seal up more potential votes, Romney will need to slide more to the political center and focus on the economy and jobs. This might distance himself from deeply polarizing social-conservative issues like contraception, abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

“I think you’re going to see him try to move away from some of those positions, and I think it’s going to be the Obama folks who are going to be trying to pin him down and not let him get away with things,” Barabak said. “Bring up things he did say like eliminating Planned Parenthood, talking about his position on abortion, which used to be at least pro-choice as they say.”

“And now he is very adamantly pro-life. So I think Mitt Romney is going to try to move to the center, and the Obama people are going to try to prevent him from doing so,” Barabak continued.

Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, said the nature of the Republican primary has hurt Romney’s chances with women voters.

Schnur said Romney was leading Obama in polling for the male vote by approximately eight points, but is losing in women voters by about 18 points.

“Already what we saw in the days before the Wisconsin primary, and even more noticeably in the last day or two, is Romney framing an economics and jobs creation argument, but making a much more significant effort to target that message right to women,” Schnur said. “I don’t know that that eliminates the gender gap, but it has the potential to make it a little bit closer.”

Tea party activist and founder of the Pleasanton Tea Party, Bridget Melson, said tea party activists would back Romney even though they don’t like “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” or “Obamacare,” which was largely modeled after the plan introduced by Romney in Massachusetts.

“We will support anybody, whoever our candidate is, we will absolutely get behind them. The point for us, and the goal for us is to get Obama out of office,” Melson said. “So absolutely, we will get behind Romney if he is our candidate.”