With the Republican primary drawing to a close and the electoral math drawing more credence towards the inevitability of Mitt Romney’s nomination, there comes a time when the few remaining candidates must put the needs of their party and their country over those of their own political interests. That time clearly has come. Mitt Romney maintains a commanding lead over his closest challenger, Rick Santorum, and it is simply not in the Republican Party’s best interests for the presumptive nominee to be forced to spend millions of dollars continuing a pointless and politically ugly campaign instead of utilizing his resources to combat Obama.
It is undeniable that candidates such as Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich are now so marginalized that their plans to stay in the race until the convention are just absurd. That’s why one would think that there are larger ulterior motives here beyond those of any Hail Mary pass hopes to achieve a surprise victory. When looked at through the eyes of idealism and current tea party populism it soon becomes clear why the other candidates refuse to quit. Simply put, the candidates seek to build a movement. Ron Paul is perhaps the most obvious example of this. His liberal social positions and non-interventionist brand of Libertarianism have attracted a sizable – yet hardly significant – following amongst Republicans. He has yet to win a single primary or caucus, even in the politically favorable northeast states. Given that his past attempts to run for president in ‘84 and ‘08 were just as fruitless, it becomes clear that Ron Paul never actually intends to win the presidency but rather hopes to form a legacy within the Republican Party by building up its libertarian ranks.
Santorum falls largely within the same category as Ron Paul with respect to having ulterior motives behind his run for the nomination. Boosted by grassroots tea-party support, Santorum has taken many of the more conservative states yet has fallen short of being a credible threat to Mitt Romney’s nomination. While his campaign may have held some viability in the aftermath of his razor thin victory in Iowa, his inability to gain any substantial ground against Romney in the past few months has at this point sealed his fate. However, given his insistence that he is the only “true conservative” in the race, it becomes obvious that his largely socially conservative rhetoric is more than a superficial campaign slogan. Santorum is riding a wave of support from tea party members and evangelicals who believe the country is experience a moral and social decline. He is now a crusader for their cause – seeing himself as a counterweight to the growing laissez-faire attitude towards social issues within the party.
With victories in Illinois and Puerto Rico, Romney’s total count has topped 563, far eclipsing that of all his GOP competitors combined. Nevertheless, he still has to find a way to fend off repeated cheap shots from his Republican brethren, like Santorum’s “etch-a-sketch” comment. While this may be beneficial to the individuals who make these comments, they are damaging the party as a whole. Santorum and Gingrich are alienating Romney from the core conservative base of the party. If it continues much longer, Romney will be politically kneecapped by the time he goes up against Obama. The bickering needs to stop. These candidates and party figures are hampering their own party’s electoral chances in order to selfishly promote their own careers.