Were you surprised by Rick Santorum’s win in Colorado on Tuesday? Thus far Mitt Romney has easily been sweeping the primary elections. On Tuesday, the former Massachusetts governor, who also ran in 2008, was stopped dead in his tracks. In Missouri, Minnesota and of course Colorado, Santorum beat out Romney – and not by small margins.
What does this mean for the Republican nomination and November’s presidential election? First of all, even after Tuesday’s unexpected results, Romney remains in the clear lead, with 106 pledged delegates to the Republican National Convention compared with Santorum’s 34. In fact, Gingrich is currently leading Santorum by one delegate. Of course Super Tuesday is still to come and Santorum’s momentum at the moment is strong.
But more importantly, the Santorum vs. Romney issue goes straight to the core question of the state of the GOP. Are Republicans looking for an ideologue, a social conservative, in short a Tea Party candidate? Santorum has already proved himself a divisive figure and beware anyone who Googles his name. Suffice it to say it has been usurped by very angry gay activists.
Romney on the other hand is a classic Republican: wealthy, well-bred, educated and with gubernatorial experience. He is a centrist, which makes him appealing to moderate Republicans and even disillusioned Democrats, but not to hawks with black-and-white worldviews. But after four years of Obama’s circumspect style, maybe people are once again looking for fire?
Ultimately, however, it behooves Republicans the country round to remember that the primary process is only a journey to a final destination: the presidential elections. “Electability” is the main priority, and Romney is in certain ways similar enough to Obama (Harvard grad, well-spoken, even) to present a real threat come November. Santorum’s style is too demagogic to garner the type of support needed to win against an incumbent. So a vote for Santorum is, in effect, a vote for Obama.