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Santorum's departure improves the chances of a Republican win in November. Observers of Pennsylvania politics cite daughter Bella and his state standing as the catalysts behind his decision.

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Santorum didn’t want to lose again in Pennsylvania

Santorum’s departure improves the chances of a Republican win in November. Observers of Pennsylvania politics cite daughter Bella and his state standing as the catalysts behind his decision.

Whatever the personal circumstances that led Rick Santorum to finally announce today his exit from the Republican presidential race, there was very clearly one undercurrent factor in his decision:  six years after he lost re-election to the U.S. Senate by a margin of 17 percentage points statewide, Santorum did not want to lose badly in Pennsylvania again.

When Santorum addressed the conservative Pennsylvania Leadership Conference on the morning of March 24, there was considerable evidence that the 800-plus crowd at the annual conclave in Harrisburg had forgiven him for what many had said was a mortal sin for a Keystone State conservative: namely, Santorum’s strong campaign assistance for then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 primary, which many felt was critical to Specter surviving a challenge from conservative Pat Toomey by 15,000 votes out of more than 1 million cast.  (Specter, of course, went on to cast deciding votes in the Senate for ObamaCare and the stimulus packages, switched to the Democratic Party, and lost the Democratic primary in 2010.)

Introduced by David Taylor of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association as “the next President of the United States,” Santorum was given a wild ovation. The crowd cheered his references to values, his jabs at Romney as the “worst Republican to debate Obama on health care,” and his vow to make decisions based on principle rather than an “etch-a-sketch.” He then brandished the beloved toy whose stock had skyrocketed after a Romney spokesman’s gaffe about his man re-positioning himself in the general election as if using an etch-a-sketch.

But not all was going well for Santorum in his former state (he is now a resident and voter in Northern Virginia).  Although the crowd that greeted his address to the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference was warm, there was still lingering resentment over the Specter endorsement as well as Santorum’s refusal to disavow his history of support for earmarks. Fiscal conservatives were still angry at such past votes of Santorum’s as those to raise the minimum wage and support taxpayer funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Citing the sour feelings about Santorum among some Republicans, Marc Levy of The Associated Press pointed out the former senator’s “lack of endorsements from the state GOP establishment. Toomey … Gov. Tom Corbett, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley and state party chairman Rob Gleason all are publicly uncommitted. Former Govs. Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker, four congressmen and GOP national committeeman Bob Asher, are backing Romney.”

At the time of the leadership conference, a Quinnipiac poll of likely voters in the Pennsylvania primary April 24 showed Santorum leading Romney by a margin of 36-to-22 percent statewide, with Newt Gingrich at 16 percent and Ron Paul 12 percent. But even with this lead among primary voters, there were significant doubts that the Santorum campaign had filed for all the delegate slots being voted on in the primary—a mistake they made earlier in the year in Ohio, when Santorum lost a tight contest to Romney but got fewer delegates than he might have had he filed complete slates.
           
“I did my senior thesis at the University of Pennsylvania on the delegate selection process here and just how the convention delegates themselves have really nothing to do with the votes for a candidate in the presidential primary,” former Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.) recalled to HUMAN EVENTS during the leadership conference meeting, “Drew Lewis [Ronald Reagan’s state chairman in Pennsylvania] explained to me how even when George H.W. Bush won the primary, the Reagan campaign nonetheless had the most delegates. They had concentrated on races for individual delegate positions and won more of them than Bush did.”

English, who convinced HUMAN EVENTS to write a “Race of the Week” feature on Santorum in his first race for Congress back in 1990, was running as a Romney delegate from his former Erie County-based U.S. House district. When he spoke to us at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference meeting, the former congressman said that his man Romney could win more delegates than Santorum in Pennsylvania, especially if Santorum had not filed supporters for delegates in all of the state’s 18 U.S. House districts.

Referring to Santorum’s moving words in his exit statement about his 3-year-old daughter Bella and her recurring illness, English told us: “Certainly the illness his daughter has had has been a burden on the family. It was obviously a factor in Rick’s decision.  And what was shaping up in Pennsylvania for him certainly must have affected his decision to suspend his campaign. But in getting out when he did and after his performance in the nomination campaign, Rick Santorum has almost surely guaranteed he will be a player in future Republican campaigns.”

Would he play a role in a future Republican administration, possibly as secretary of labor, we asked English?

“I think it would be very presumptuous of me to say who would be the personnel in a future Republican administration,” the former congressman replied. “But in getting out when he did, Rick Santorum has taken a step to raise the chances that there will be a future Republican administration.”

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Written By

John Gizzi has come to be known as â??the man who knows everyone in Washingtonâ?ť and, indeed, many of those who hold elected positions and in party leadership roles throughout the United States. With his daily access to the White House as a correspondent, Mr. Gizzi offers readers the inside scoop on whatâ??s going on in the nationâ??s capital. He is the author of a number of popular Human Events features, such as â??Gizzi on Politicsâ?ť and spotlights of key political races around the country. Gizzi also is the host of â??Gizziâ??s America,â?ť video interviews that appear on HumanEvents.com. Gizzi got his start at Human Events in 1979 after graduating from Fairfield University in Connecticut and then working for the Travis County (Tex.) Tax Assessor. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including Fox News Channel, C-SPAN, America's Voice,The Jim Bohannon Show, Fox 5, WUSA 9, America's Radio News Network and is also a frequent contributor to the BBC -- and has appeared on France24 TV and German Radio. He is a past president of the Georgetown Kiwanis Club, past member of the St. Matthew's Cathedral's Parish Council, and secretary of the West End Friends of the Library. He is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence and was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002. John Gizzi is also a credentialed correspondent at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He has questioned two IMF managing directors, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Christine LaGarde, and has become friends with international correspondents worldwide. Johnâ??s email is JGizzi@EaglePub.Com

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