Senator Mitt Romney swept in both the Pennsylvania and Delaware primary elections last night just as analysts expected. However, something unusual occurred during the Pennsylvania election that is worth discussing–former Senator Rick Santorum placed second in Pennsylvania. Normally, such results would be disturbing for the Santorum camp. After all, Presidential candidates want to win. Still, placing second is not bad when you consider that Rick Santorum suspended his Presidential campaign a few weeks ago.
These election results suggest one of the following:
Pennsylvania Republicans are woefully out of touch.
I could use this section to make a lot of farm jokes about Pennsylvania, but it is my home state so I will leave it alone. Nonetheless, there is no excuse for any Pennsylvania Republican to be unaware of Santorum’s exit. It is true that with the exception of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is mostly farmland. I should know. Between visiting my father in Harrisburg and various relatives in Ohio, I have driven the full length of the Pennsylvania turnpike several times. The route is full of picturesque farms and mountains that help to facilitate the state’s rural character. Still, those small farm and mountain towns have ample media access. Not everyone in rural Pennsylvania is Amish or Pennsylvania Dutch. Indeed, rural Pennsylvania is made up of more than just farmers and coal miners.
Pennsylvania Republicans are ambivalent about voting for Mitt Romney.
Let the record show that since its establishment in 1776, the United States has only had one Catholic President and one African American President. Both were elected by the Democrats. As a Mormon, Mitt Romney has virtually no chance at securing the necessary support from the Conservative, Bible Belt in the South. Apparently, some Pennsylvania Republicans were more willing to vote for a man who quit the race than they were to vote for the Mormon frontrunner thereby suggesting that Romney is going to have some problems with Northern Republicans as well.
Based on these results, it is no surprise that Mitt Romney has scheduled a meeting with Rick Santorum. Romney needs to find a way to win over the Bible Belt states, which seemed very supportive of Santorum in spite of his inability to keep his foot out of his mouth. (If you’re going to try to convince people that you didn’t say you wanted to stop giving “black” people other people’s money, replacing “black” with “blah” in subsequent interviews isn’t smart.) The Bible Belt’s ability to overlook such gaffes is disconcerting. Then again, as a researcher of public policy, I am learning to accept that conservative Republicans are not the only ones who are ignorant of the political process. The biggest obstacle facing President Obama is that many of the people who voted him into office do not understand what it takes to bring about change in our current political system. As a result, they are now either apathetic or displeased enough to vote for a Republican candidate.
As for Gingrich, he is pretty much a nonfactor at this point. Not only did he place last, but he placed worse than Ron Paul–a man who was already thought to have no chance at winning from the beginning. It is safe to say that Gingrich should follow Santorum’s lead and suspend his Presidential campaign. Judging from the trend, that may make him relevant again.