Highlights from Santorum's speech last night:
John Cassidy sets his sights on Illinois:
A Santorum victory in Illinois would upend all the reassuring calculations about Romney eventually accumulating the one thousand one hundred and forty-four delegates he needs for the nomination, and all manner of crazy scenarios would merit consideration. (Jeb Bush or Chris Christie as a White Knight? A Santorum/Gingrich conservative dream ticket? Some sort deal between Romney and Ron Paul?)
Silver is more cautious:
Mr. Romney will have a significant lead in delegates even if he loses Illinois. But a loss there would be more characteristic of those scenarios where he falls short of a delegate majority and needs help from super delegates and other unpledged delegates to win the nomination. The bar for Mr. Santorum to actually overtake Mr. Romney in delegates is much higher.
Allahpundit wonders whether Gingrich will drop out:
[Gingrich] voters need to decide their next move. If they break for Santorum and he starts beating Romney head to head — starting next Tuesday in Illinois — then he’s got a compelling narrative headed into the convention even if Mitt ends up winning a plurality of delegates. Namely, “the only reason Romney ended up with a delegate lead is because Newt and I split conservatives in the early primaries. Once Newt faded and it turned into a binary choice, I was the clear preference of the majority.” That is to say, if Santorum can put together a winning streak against Romney, he can point to tonight’s results as a de facto “reset” of the primary.
Bill Kristol hungers for a two-man race:
[Gingrich has] won only twice so far—and Santorum, his rival for conservative standard-bearer, has beaten him in twenty of the twenty-four states where they've both been on the ballot. If Newt chooses to end his campaign in late March or early April, and with Ron Paul having yet to win a single state, we'd be in a two-man race. As the examples of Ford-Reagan in 1976 and Obama-Clinton in 2008 suggest, the victor in such a contest tends to seem by its conclusion a worthy winner, and is able to run a strong general election campaign coming out of the convention.
Patricia Murphy thinks money will determine Gingrich's options:
[T]he decision to stay in the race will not be Gingrich’s alone. More likely it will be up to donors to his campaign and super PAC, including billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who will have to decide if they are making a worthwhile investment in Gingrich and his ambitions or throwing good money after bad. No campaign can compete at this stage of a presidential race without significant funds to pay for staff, travel, and organizational muscle.
Jonathan Bernstein analyzes Gingrich's snake oil:
Newt's basically peddling a conspiracy theory: the "elite media" (whatever that is) and the GOP establishment have conspired to select a "Massachusetts moderate," but ordinary grass roots Republicans like him with his ordinary grass roots money and his outsider history are going to stop them. …Isn't it, as someone might say, profoundly and fundamentally dangerous to the GOP? He's basically saying that the nominee is completely illegitimate, isn't he?
Michael Walsh worries about the evangelical vote:
[O]ne possible explanation is that Romney’s Mormonism is playing poorly in the Deep South. And while the Constitution is explicit that there can be no religious test for public office, what goes on in voters’ hearts is another thing entirely. Should Romney be the nominee and evangelicals remain resistant, the result will be disastrous for the GOP.
Massie makes related points:
Romney's problem is not Mississippi or Alabama. Nicolas Sarkozy is as likely to win in the Deep South as Barack Obama. Mitt Romney's problem is whether cultural conservatives in other states – Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio most especialy – will rally to him in November. Nevertheless: would you measure a candidate's appeal to Middle America by his performance in Alabama and Mississippi? I doubt it.
Frum asks Santorum voters to consider the consequences of their actions:
The Santorum candidacy pushes Republicans toward an election in which the issues are religious, cultural, and sexual, not economic. It's a candidacy that pushes the party away from metropolitan areas, away from areas of growing population, and rebases the party everywhere that is not dynamic, not growing. … [A] Santorum candidacy offers an airing of resentments and grievances. Is that really where party conservatives want to go?
John Holbo is enjoying the drawn-out primary:
One of the many, many reasons to hope the unusually silly GOP primary season stretches on and on is that eventually we get to New York (April 24). Maybe all the way to California (June 5). What if California actually matters? If Newt and Santorum are still hanging on, how are they going to pander shamelessly to California voters?
Drum suspects that Santorum would have a shot in The Golden State:
[A]lthough Romney seems like he'd be the best bet to win California — it's a big, media-driven state; he's ahead in the polls; he's got good connections; etc. — a guy like Santorum has a chance. Maybe even a pretty good one.