Why Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul Aren't Dropping Out

Mitt Romney doesn't understand why his opponents just won't give up the fight for the nomination.

By SHARE

Former Gov. Mitt Romney doesn't understand why his opponents just won't give up the fight for the nomination. He's right in that it's not exactly logical for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and Rep. Ron Paul to stay in the race. It's virtually impossible for any of the lagging three candidates to win the nomination mathematically. Romney stepped aside in 2008 when it was clear that he would not make it to the nomination. He's waited his turn; he believe he's earned it, and he can't figure out why the less popular candidates just won't go away and let him get down to the business of defeating President Barack Obama.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP hopefuls.]

The answer is partly a function of basic delusion. When one has amassed the emotional energy and ego required to run for president, it's understandable that the candidates might imagine they could still get the nod. Romney is well ahead in delegates and is almost certain to have acquired a greater number of delegates by the time of the convention. However, it's not certain that Romney will have an out-and-out majority of delegates by the time the convention comes around, giving lower-performing candidates some hope that convention delegates will pick them on a second or third or even fourth ballot.

The fact that Romney may well not win a straight-up majority of delegates before the convention is also a sign of how divided the Republican party is right now. Social conservatives and Tea Party activists are not happy with the man they see as (despite his recent campaign rhetoric) too moderate. And establishment types in the party know that a one-time moderate like Romney probably has a better chance of beating Obama in a general election. It may be a heart-versus-brain competition, and neither metaphorical organ wants to give in.

[Read the U.S. News debate: Can Mitt Romney Close the Deal With Conservatives?]

Money, too, is playing a big role—whether it's the Super PACs or simply the modern technology of fund-raising. In days past, presidential primaries resolved the nomination earlier not because voters had coalesced around a particular contender, but because some of them had simply run out of money. When a candidate can raise many millions of dollars in a day on the Internet, the money barrier is lower. And if a candidate has a wealthy sugar daddy funding Super PAC ads, the high cost of advertising is greatly diminished. Campaigns, then, can go on a  lot longer, which forces the contenders to continue answering questions and addressing issues raised by his or her foes.

The modern scenario is understandably frustrating to Romney. But it's not necessarily bad for democracy. Party stalwarts may want to sew up the nomination, but voters deserve choice.

  • See a collection of political cartoons on Super PACs.
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