The GOP Race Officially Turns the Corner

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Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, at left, and Rick Santorum (Credit: Getty)

Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, at left, and Rick Santorum (Credit: Getty)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Most of the bystanders watching the GOP Presidential Primary have known for a while that the race has been unofficially over for some time. When Mitt Romney stopped the bleeding in March, all signs of an historic meltdown disappeared.

However, in a year that has provided all of us far more surprises than anyone expected, it’s understandable why few would go out on a limb and declare Romney the winner, until now.

But Romney’s sweep of the three primaries on Tuesday in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington D.C. has officially sealed the deal and removed all doubt of who the GOP nominee will be.

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This moment seems like it is all about Mitt Romney and his upcoming fight with in the general election. But I believe this moment is more about Rick Santorum and who he wants to be in the coming months.

He can stick to his guns and continue to push true social conservatives away from his fellow Republican, Mitt Romney. Going down this same road will keep him consistent with his campaign message and would keep him in the good graces with social conservatives. But this same strategy would also make him a pariah to the rest of the party who now wants to focus on defeating the incumbent.

On the other hand, Santorum can slowly begin to turn his attention to Obama and away from Romney. This would in essence raise the white flag on the campaign and would tell his social conservative fans that they no longer have any shot of directly influencing the nomination process. While alienating his most strident supporters, Santorum would keep himself in good standing with party leaders and would keep the door open to some sort of influential role throughout the general election campaign.

So now that Santorum faces the most important fork in the road of his career, which way will he go?

For Santorum, sticking to his conservative guns is the best way to go because keeping that cache is more important than anything the GOP leadership might throw his way for his obedience.

If Romney fails in his bid for president, Santorum has much more to gain has a consistent social conservative than he does as a half-hearted Romney supporter. Santorum knows that he can harness much more energy as a conservative during a second Obama term than he can during a Romney first term.

Santorum cannot openly hope for a Romney loss, but he can also figure out quite quickly that he doesn’t need to sell out and become a big cheerleader either. My money is on Santorum staying the course, knowing the conservative rebel will play better in the future than the Romney supporting role will ever play.

Whatever role he chooses, Romney supporter or social conservative outsider, Santorum must come to grips that his role as Presidential candidate has come to a close.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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