Does Romney Really Need The Santorum Endorsement?

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Surrounded by members of his family, Republican presidential candidate, former Sen. Rick Santorum announces he will be suspending his campaign during a press conference at the Gettysburg Hotel on April 10, 2012 in Gettysburg, Penn. Santorum's three-year-old daughter, Bella, became ill over the Easter holiday and poll numbers showed he was losing to Mitt Romney in his home state of Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Surrounded by members of his family, Republican presidential candidate, former Sen. Rick Santorum announces he will be suspending his campaign during a press conference at the Gettysburg Hotel on April 10, 2012 in Gettysburg, Penn. Santorum’s three-year-old daughter, Bella, became ill over the Easter holiday and poll numbers showed he was losing to Mitt Romney in his home state of Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

With Rick Santorum officially suspending his campaign on Tuesday, the next great priority for the Mitt Romney campaign is apparently securing Santorum’s endorsement. The Romney campaign reportedly would like this to happen as soon as possible. However, the Santorum campaign, or what’s left of it, says that the endorsement is not guaranteed.

But I think that the Romney campaign should take a deep breath before making the assumption that an endorsement from Rick Santorum would be a great benefit to the campaign.

I can understand the competitive nature of wanting a defeated foe to officially capitulate, not only surrendering but publicly admitting that his one time opponent is the better man.

I can also understand the overly optimistic idea that Santorum’s endorsement would help shore up conservative support within the GOP. Lacking that support has cost Romney literally millions of dollars and has been seen as his Achilles Heel.

However, that weakness is only relevant in the primary. It’s not as if social conservative Republicans are going to vote for Romney’s competition in the general election. Social conservatives might not be energized with a Mitt Romney nomination, but a Rick Santorum endorsement will not help that lethargy either.

And while a Rick Santorum endorsement may sound like a good idea to the Romney camp right now, an endorsement and any subsequent campaign stops, would make it far easier for Democrats to tie Santorum’s arch conservative views on some social issues to Romney. Those are the kinds of ads that could do serious damage among unaffiliated voters.

Getting the Santorum endorsement sooner than later may feel like it would put an official end to the primary campaign and begin to heal the wounds from the fairly vicious fight within the GOP over the last several months.

This may be conventional wisdom, but I think it is wrong because the fact is that the fight is already officially over, but the real healing will not be an easy task for the GOP. That difficult task cannot be hurried by a quick endorsement from a candidate who recently claimed Romney was the absolute wrong choice.

The reason the healing will take more than an endorsement to really take hold is that the split in the GOP isn’t about personalities, it’s about where the Republican Party wants to be in the future.

Mitt Romney may have won the primary, but he has yet to really win the hearts of Republicans. He has yet to show that he can unify a divided party. An endorsement will not change that fact anytime soon.

With all of the attention that they attract, high profile endorsements can create the illusion that they can really sway an election. But the detail that too many campaigns forget is that endorsements can indeed sway an election, but not necessarily in a positive direction.

It would be wise for the Romney campaign to remember the laws of political physics soon and realize that endorsement momentum can swing both ways.

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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