By Carole on Mar 14, 2012
With wins in both Alabama and Mississippi, former Senator Rick Santorum is clearly the anti-Romney candidate in the Republican presidential race…at least for now. But perhaps more important than Mr. Santorum's two wins, is former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's two losses.
With former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich reaffirming his intention to stay in the race, it's likely that he and Mr. Santorum will continue to split the conservative vote and neither will be able to capture the necessary 1,144 delegates to secure the nomination. But their collective strong showing in state after state makes the inevitable nomination of Mr. Romney less inevitable every day.
For months there has been talk of a brokered or contested convention in Tampa - one at which no candidate arrives with the necessary number of delegates to be nominated on the first ballot. But that talk has come mostly from the conservative wing of the party. After last night's surprising results (many experts had expected at least one Romney win in Mississippi), some of those so-called establishment voices may openly join in the discussion.
Faced with the strong possibility of a Romney nomination, a surprising number of primary voters and caucus goers have said no. Even after their first choice for the nomination decided not to enter the race or exited after a brief run, they refused to accept "the presumptive nominee" and made a different choice.
Now the Republican establishment must face the possibility of a Santorum nomination as the result of their unrelenting attempts to force square peg Romney into the round hole that is the chance to defeat President Barack Obama in November.
While Senator Santorum is certainly a better choice than Governor Romney, parts of his legislative record and fervent focus on social issues may be liabilities with all-important independent voters in a general election.
The possibility that a contested convention can produce a qualified and charismatic candidate with broad appeal grows more likely as the primary battle goes on. But to make it really happen, the establishment must admit that Mitt Romney is not that person and accept that someone other than those currently in the race could and maybe even should be the nominee.
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