It’s been a wild ride, but the story line of the Republican race remains remarkably simple and constant: It’s Mitt Romney and the perishable pretenders.
Five have come and gone, if you count the Donald’s aborted proto-candidacy. And now the sixth and most plausibly presidential challenger just had his moment — and blew it in Michigan.
It’s no use arguing that Rick Santorum won nearly as many Michigan delegates as Romney. He lost the state. Wasn’t Santorum claiming a great victory just three weeks ago when he shockingly swept Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado — without a single convention delegate being selected?
He was right. It was a great victory. Delegate counts were beside the point. These three wins instantly propelled him to the front of the field nationally and to a double-digit lead in Romney’s Michigan back yard.
Then Santorum went ahead and lost it. Rather than sticking to his considerable working-class, Reagan-Democrat appeal, he kept wandering back to his austere social conservatism. Rather than placing himself in “Grandpa’s hands,” his moving tribute to his immigrant coal miner grandfather as representative of the America that Santorum pledges to restore, he insisted on launching himself into culture-war thickets: Kennedy, college and contraception.