Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Rick Santorum won 3 times last night, but Mitt Romney will be the long-term winner

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“The more you get to know them, the less you like them.”

One fun game I have stumbled upon in this early part of the 2012 election is “Do you know this about [insert name of candidate]?”

Most of the country played this game with Barack Obama in 2008. When you live in the state of a major presidential candidate, you know more about that person than others.

In 2012, those of us who have covered politics know quite a lot about the GOP presidential candidates because they’ve been around for awhile. I know stories about Mitt Romney, I remember things Newt Gingrich did, and I know who Rick Santorum was before Google made him famous.

The general electorate doesn’t remember these nuances. The political media’s job is to remind the voters about who these people are.

The bad news for the Republican candidates is that when voters learn more about the candidates, they don’t like them as much.

This is the major reason why Rick Santorum won three contests — Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado — last night.

Of course, Santorum will tell you that these people love his hard-core conservative principles. And he is correct. But Santorum has been forgotten for weeks now, outside of his family and strong supporters. And that helped him at the polls.

But now that people will start to pay attention to Santorum, they’ll get to know him and not like him.

Santorum has now won 4 states, yet he’s been considered an also-ran in the race. Gingrich has won 1 state, and the press treats him as a Romney equal. The MSM has cowed in fear of Gingrich since 1994, and this is yet more proof of that phenomenon.

The experts tell you that Newt Gingrich had a bad night. Wasn’t on the Missouri ballot, and wasn’t in either of the other two states on election night. Miserably lost all three races. But Gingrich got something he desperately needed; easing of the spotlight.

The more Gingrich talks, the higher his negative numbers. If the GOP electorate doesn’t hear from him until Super Tuesday, they might start to like him again.

The experts also tell you that Romney had a bad night. It wasn’t good. However, we’ve seen Romney bounce back well after losing a state. And even if Missouri caucuses for Santorum, Romney is still far ahead in the delegate race.

The best gift for Romney last night? Santorum got momentum, keeping him as a viable candidate so Santorum and Gingrich will split the teabagger vote. The longer that those two fight for the same voting bloc, the better Romney will do, especially on Super Tuesday.

Ron Paul had a good night, though his showing in Nevada was not as strong as predicted. The pundits are still figuring out Ron Paul’s purpose. Paul doesn’t have to tell us where all this is going, but he should start planning for what his summer and fall will look like. This is Ron Paul’s last stand. Well after the GOP gets its presumptive nominee, Ron Paul will be a factor.

We can talk about Santorum’s momentum, Paul’s moderate success, and Gingrich’s well-needed time out of the spotlight. But as Obama and Hillary Clinton can tell you, this race comes down to delegates. Because of the delegates, Romney was the ultimate winner last night.

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