Mitt Romney has won a resounding victory in Illinois and moved much closer to winning the Republican nomination, this time even winning a significant chunk of the Evangelical Christian and Tea Party voters who would normally have gone to Santorum or the increasingly-fading Gingrich.
It remains my opinion that Santorum’s best shot (and it’s an increasingly long one) is to have Gingrich quit the race and endorse him. This would effectively give Santorum most of Gingrich’s delegates and erode Romney’s lead in upcoming battles. Gingrich does not look to be so-inclined, and may himself be playing “spoiler” to Santorum and angling for the VP slot.
Patrick Edaburn has an extensive news and commentary roundup. My only quibble with Edaburn is that he suggests Romney’s competitors aren’t getting out of the race because they’re “idiots.” I don’t think so. Unless one of Romney’s competitors gets a valuable offer of some sort from Romney, at this point it would be foolish for either Santorum or Gingrich to quit. There are numerous reasons. Here are some:
1) It lays the groundwork for future Presidential campaigns. To give just one example, in 1976 Ronald Reagan continued his quest for the Republican nomination all the way to the convention long after he had mathematically lost against Gerald Ford. He took some heat and ridicule for it, but look what it got him four short years later.
2) The more delegates a candidate arrives with at at the convention, the more respect he’s going to be given, the more role he’s likely to have on the party platform, and the more prominent a speaking role he’ll get to address the convention (and, as a result, the nation).
3) If you covet a job such as Vice President, or some cabinet post, your best way to do that is to have a substantial number of delegates at the convention that you can pledge to whoever wins.
4) Just like football, a team with an enormous advantage can lose everything due to a critical injury or fumble. While they are all unlikely, I can easily think of several scenarios (including dreadful ones involving airplane crashes, sudden illnesses, scandals, or even–horrible but it’s happened–assassins) which completely changes the race in the blink of an eye.
It seems likely that this is going to remain a four-man contest all the way to the convention, because the remaining candidates have more to gain by staying in than getting out right now.