A Recap of the Rick Santorum 2012 Campaign

On Tuesday, Rick Santorum suspended his campaign for the presidency, essentially sewing up the GOP nomination for Mitt Romney. Santorum always seemed like a dark horse candidate, his views too radical and too right-wing to make a true national splash, his national profile too young to truly compete again others in the race such as Romney and Gingrich, whose well-oiled campaign machines seemed ready to crush any intruder.

Yet starting with his strong showing in Iowa, which translated a few weeks later into a razor-thin ultimate win in the caucus, Santorum swept onto the national stage and eventually edged out Gingrich as the anti-Romney candidate. His rise to national prominence was remarkable, coming from nowhere to win a string of primaries and caucuses, and posing a legitimate threat to Romney’s path to the White House.

In our day and age of polished politicians, Santorum seemed to swim against the conventional expectations. Acting almost as a direct foil to the flip-flopping Romney, Santorum’s ideas and options may have been absurd, controversial and, at times, misinformed, but he stood by them. He represented an unabashed dedication to his religion and his beliefs. For right or wrong, his unwavering commitment to his set of ideals provided stark contrast to the back and forth, vote-pandering rhetoric that we often see in campaigns and politics.

Yet while his convictions may have been a breath of fresh air, Santorum received large amounts of criticism and heat – from the left and the right – on some of his more controversial issue stances. His opposition of birth control, his stance on the Israel-Palestine issue (a more conservative position than taken by the Israeli government), tying Obama’s views on abortion to his race, and comparing homosexuality to bestiality, made it hard for many to actually see him a viable candidate, as someone who would be able to truly represent more than a fraction of Americans, let alone the entire nation.

The presence of Santorum in the race had long been a source of joy to many Democrats, as he drew out the primaries, taking votes away from Romney, and potentially alienated independents. Yet when the dust settles, the Santorum effect may have helped the Republicans in several ways. Firstly, although the drawn-out primary meant Romney was unable for focus attacks on Obama, it kept the Republicans in the headlines and drew news coverage away from the president’s re-election campaign. Secondly, every far-right statement made by Santorum conversely made Romney seem more moderate in his positions. His campaign may have activated voters against him, a move that will serve Romney well in the general election.

With Santorum out of the race, Romney can now focus on the November election: directing his attacks towards the president and uniting a fractured Republican Party behind him. The future of Rick Santorum is still unclear (there is speculation that he ended his campaign when he did in order to maintain political viability to be able to sustain a run for the nomination again in 2016), yet with little backing from Republican insiders, it’s likely that his influence in the Republican Party and over the national discussion will quickly diminish now that he has quit the race.