Santorum pressured to leave race - The Roger Hedgecock Show - Talk Radio

Santorum pressured to leave race

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He lost the Illinois primary badly to Mitt Romney on Tuesday and, in the process, fell 300 delegates behind the former Massachusetts governor. And, adding insult to injury, former Florida governor Jeb Bush finally decided to wade into the presidential race on behalf of Romney on Wednesday, a signal to the Republican political world that primary race is at an end.

The Romney campaign is also beginning to make the case more publicly that now is the time for Santorum to step aside. Erik Fehrnstrom, a Romney spokesman, noted that the former Massachusetts governor dropped out of the 2008 race in favor of Arizona Sen.John McCain "because he thought it was good for the country."

And Romney supporter Bob Dole was quoted on Wednesday night comparing Santorum's position now to his own in the 1988 presidential primary; "I should have gotten out, but I just kept going out there," Dole told the Associated Press' Dave Espo.

For his part, Santorum seems set to continue on in the race. But focusing on whether Santorum should stay in the race sort of misses the point. The more important question — as it relates to Romney's chances in the general election and Santorum's political future — is how the former Pennsylvania senator will choose to play out what looks to be the end game of his presidential bid.

"If Santorum runs a principled campaign and then concedes graciously then he has a big future ahead," said Steve Schmidt, who managed McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. "If he runs a character campaign attacking Romney, then Santorum's future is more limited."

Think back to the 2008 Republican race. After Romney dropped out, the nomination was McCain's. But former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee remained in the race for weeks after that — campaigning and winning in a series of Southern states.

What Huckabee didn't do, however, was attack McCain in any sustained way. Huckabee used his final few weeks in the race to polish his brand and make sure those who were loyal to him felt like he was giving it his all. As a result, the McCain folks didn't push Huckabee too hard to step aside.

And, after the race ended, Huckabee turned into one of the hottest commodities in conservative circles — as a radio and television show host as well as a oft-mentioned 2012 candidate. (Huckabee announced he would not run in May 2011 on — what else? — his TV show.)

Santorum could follow a similar path, according to conversations with a number of GOP strategists, both those aligned with Romney and those not.

 

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