Human Events Blog

Bella Santorum comes home

 

Good news: the Washington Post reports that presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s daughter Bella has been released from the hospital.  Santorum had suspended campaign activities to be with her, but is now heading back to the trail:

Bella Santorum, who suffers from a rare genetic condition called Trisomy 18, was hospitalized Friday as her father began a brief holiday break from campaigning. Santorum did not campaign Monday so he could be with his daughter, who was discharged from the hospital Monday night.

Campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley said Santorum has cancelled his first two events scheduled for Tuesday, but will add a campaign stop in Gettysburg, Pa., in the afternoon. He will also join James Dobson, the founder of the evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family, for what the campaign called a “conversation on faith, family and American values” in Lancaster, Pa., on Tuesday night.

Gidley said Santorum and his wife, Karen, were “truly overwhelmed by the prayers and support they’ve received.”

The Post mentions that “in deference to Bella’s illness, [Mitt] Romney’s campaign pulled down a harsh ad that was running against the former Pennsylvania senator there.”  It was replaced with “a positive, pro-Romney spot.”  The New York Times offers some more details:

The ad highlights how Pennsylvania voters turned on Mr. Santorum during the 2006 Senate race, with even his home county voting against his re-election.

On Monday morning, the anti-Santorum commercial began running and the Romney campaign alerted television stations to swap it out with a pro-Romney commercial that extols Mr. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, as a conservative.

“We’ve done this out of deference to Senator Santorum’s decision to suspend his campaign for personal family reasons,” said Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign.

A fine gesture, although it makes one long for a promised land in which every candidate conducts himself with such deference and positive spirit.  Now that Bella is out of the hospital, the gloves will presumably come back off.

The Romney campaign is planning to throw $2.9 million worth of haymaker punches over the next two weeks in Pennsylvania, looking for a knockout punch against Santorum.  According to the Times, a lot of that money will go into Philadelphia, “where Mr. Santorum is already the weakest,” and moderate Republicans “rejected Mr. Santorum in his unsuccessful bid in 2006 for re-election to the Senate.”

Pennsylvania looks like a tight race.  A Rasmussen poll from April 4 gives Santorum a 4-point lead, which is within the margin of error, while a PPP poll taken the same day had Romney 5 points ahead.  PPP’s internals attributed the Romney surge – 17 points since their previous poll in March – to a growing sense that Santorum has no realistic chance to win the nomination, coupled with Romney making “huge inroads” with evangelicals, the Tea Party, and “very conservative” voters, all of whom still prefer Santorum, but by far smaller margins.

In keeping with the new tradition of making the Republican primary as confusing as possible, Pennsylvania’s primary on April 24 is one of those technically meaningless “beauty contest” affairs.  There are 72 delegates, most of them elected from individual congressional districts, but all of them go to the Republican National Convention in Tampa as “unpledged” delegates.  That means they can vote for any candidate they please – not necessarily the candidate their district, or the overall Pennsylvania state vote, selected.  Oh, well… at least they don’t hold “caucuses” and drag it out for a couple of weeks.

New York will surely be the big focus for delegates on April 24, as its larger pool of 95 delegates really will be awarded proportionally by its primary contest.  Most of them are awarded per congressional district, but a healthy pool of 34 delegates will be awarded to the winner of the statewide vote, provided he earns over 50 percent of the vote.  Mitt Romney scored 54 percent in the latest Quinnipiac poll of New York voters, putting him 33 points ahead of Santorum.

But Pennsylvania has important symbolic value, as a “must-win” home state for Santorum.  It’s hard to see his campaign continuing in any meaningful sense if he loses there, and his prize for winning would be another step in a long uphill climb to a brokered convention, since any realistic chance of winning the GOP nomination outright vanished weeks ago.  Some wonder if Santorum might be facing his last chance to make a graceful exit from the campaign, before a potential loss in Pennsylvania damages his future political prospects.  Even a narrow victory might prove troublesome, as he could find himself watching most of the Pennsylvania delegation end up voting for Romney at the convention.

I tend to think Santorum’s remarkable accomplishments thus far would overshadow such a loss in the long run.  At any rate, he already won a far greater prize than any state primary, or the White House itself, when Bella came home.

 

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