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Blogbuzz: Making sense of Santorum's southern sweep

Rick Santorum’s

W. James Antle III

“The most obvious, and most discussed, is Mitt Romney's inability to land the knockout blow. Every time he has a chance to cement his status as the frontrunner and consign his opponents to irrelevance, he comes up short. Crucial Republican voting blocs still think Romney is too liberal.

But there is a second dynamic at work here: Romney's opponents, especially Rick Santorum, are only able to do well enough to keep their campaigns alive and the primaries a competitive process. But they fail to do well enough to overtake Romney, and are increasingly hinting that their strategy is really to deny Romney enough delegates to win on the first ballot and force a contested convention.”

The end result is the worst of all possible worlds. Romney continues to limp toward the nomination against opponents whose best hope is him coming up a little short on the first ballot, but with deepening perception problems that will dog him in the general election. Santorum and Gingrich continue to remind conservatives of why they don't want Romney to be the nominee, while failing to do well enough to prevent that outcome.

Dan McLaughlin

“That said, especially after Romney’s team made the mistake of talking up his chances in Mississippi (where he finished third), this has been a rough week for him in the popular vote, salvaged only by the continuing division among the conservative bloc. The conservatives drew at least 64% of the vote in all three states to less than 30% for the moderates, and Newt Gingrich alone ran almost even with Romney even when you include Hawaii, which Romney won. Month-to-month, Romney’s share of the vote has been declining even as the field narrows, with the conservatives drawing a clear majority of the votes cast in March (aided as well by poor showings by Ron Paul in the Deep South) despite not even being on the ballot in Virginia.

None of this means that Romney will not be the nominee. Barack Obama lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton after March 1 by 600,000 votes, and still won the most delegates; even if this race finally devolved into a 2-man race and Romney started losing head-to-head battles with Rick Santorum, he’d still probably take the nomination. And as of now, even if Romney can’t win over a majority faction of the party, he has still outpolled any other one candidate.”

National Review’s Rich Lowry

“But did anyone expect him to do any better than somewhere around 30 percent in Alabama and Mississippi? The states are chock-full of the kind of voters he just isn’t going to reach in these primaries, and the only way he was going to win was if he got lucky and the anti-Romney vote broke exactly the right way.  I’ve been underwhelmed by Romney victories and in this case, I’m underwhelmed by Romney defeats. None of this is to say he shouldn’t sharpen his message. By the way, the contests should conclusively prove that Santorum is a better anti-Romney than Newt, but that’s something we’ve been saying around these parts for a long time.”

Jennifer Rubin

“Over and over again you hear pundits say things like, ‘Well if you look at the math ... ‘ and ‘Romney wants to focus on just the math.” There should be a gong at the ready when talking heads and pundits go into that mode. The nominating process is about the delegates. Math, like gravity, can’t be ignored.’

To be clear, Santorum cannot win the nomination by closely splitting proportional states and losing winner-take-all states. That is a formula for falling further and further behind. And that is what is happening.

Erick Erickson of Redstate

“The problem is twofold now. The base doesn’t like Romney, but the base doesn’t really like the other options either. At the same time, the base does not want this primary to end.The roller coaster continues. The one sure thing out of this is that, though Romney is not becoming a better candidate as the primaries continue, Rick Santorum sure is. As for Newt? He is becoming less relevant.It is time for Newt Gingrich to exit.

It is time for Santorum v. Romney and let the chips fall where they may. I still think Romney is the nominee. But I think Santorum vs. Romney one on one gives Romney a run for his money he needs to become a candidate conservatives can potentially rally around.”