Posted Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, at 9:25 AM
National Review beseeches Newt Gingrich to quit the presidential race and let Rick Santorum go at it with Mitt Romney. The intensity of the sentiment is so real, so passionate, that it overpowers mere facts.
Santorum has won more contests than Gingrich (who has won only one), has more delegates, and leads him in the polls.
Gingrich has actually won more delegates than Santorum. We've only lived through three binding primaries thus far; Gingrich has won the second-largest one, in South Carolina, capturing 29 of 2,286 delegates. Rick Santorum has won three delegates. Santorum just made the strategic decision to compete in Missouri (which awarded no delegates), and organize in the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses. After all that, because so few people participate in caucuses, Gingrich remains around 260,000 popular votes ahead of Santorum.
I've carped too much about this, but the Santorum surge -- the sudden, simultaneous decision of many conservative Republicans that he is their candidate, not Gingrich -- is based on three factors. In order:
1) Media coverage has emphasized Santorum's success in non-binding contests.
2) Santorum has built a sturdy organization that can outperform in caucuses.
3) No one has gone negative on Santorum yet.
The first factor is conditional; the third factor will change as soon as Restore Our Future decides it needs to change. They'll probably start here.
Now: None of this is meant to undermine Santorum! In retrospect, the guy was written off by too many conservatives too quickly just because he got drowned in the 2006 wave. (As he likes to point out, had Mitt Romney decided to run for governor again, he would have lost, too.) The current conservative sprint to Santorum acknowledges that. The only reason I see to bury Gingrich right now is that Sheldon Adelson keeps waffling over how much he'll support him.