GOP’s preordained race nears its bitter end

Haven’t been here in a while. Not much to say, except this:

At some point you have to realize that this is delusional behavior. These guys have been out there so long, repeating the same tired lines over and over again, shaking hands and kissing babies. They don’t know what state they’re in until someone tells them, just before they walk up on a stage, or into a diner, or whatever propped-up common-man setting that the campaign operatives have staked out. Sleep is a memory. None of this is real.

You know that Rick Santorum convinced himself he could win—they all have at some point—but once you get a real taste of it, well, it has to be hard to let it go. Denial is everything. Head down, move forward, next state, next primary. Santorum, much like Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, cannot win the Republican nomination, at least not mathematically. They have to know this. So why do they plow on?

Ron Paul has his reasons. He’s building something. It’s a years-long project, and one that may never be fulfilled, if not by his son, Rand. But he’s working on it.

Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, is without reason. That is to say, he is unreasonable; also, unelectable and unlikable, but everyone already knows that. Profoundly. Fundamentally.

Rick Santorum, though, is somewhere else. He has a blinkered vision that allows him to only see what is necessary and what is moral and what is right. It is not uncommon in those possessed by great religiosity to be consumed to the point of delusion. It is not a prerequisite, nor is it rampant, but let’s be honest: America has its fair share of true believers. Just not enough to win a nomination.

Santorum calls himself a Catholic but he is built, as a candidate, more like an evangelical. He has a fever, and the only cure is more sermonizing. He knows what America needs. He wants to help. He thinks he can save us.

This is delusional behavior. Rick Santorum can no more save this country than he can win a general election, much less the Republican nomination. And even if he pads his totals over the next few weeks (he is currently at 278 delegates) they will not magically balloon into anywhere near what he needs them to be. It’s over. The social issues candidate has run out of time. His luck has soured. Only faith can carry him now. He is “irrelevant,” as 2008’s nominee John McCain said today; he would know.

The fact that he made it this far goes beyond any rational explanation—oh, right: Mitt Romney.

What Santorum surely does not recognize, but should, is that he was a placeholder. He was a warm body—a warm, conservative body—and he filled the role that Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann and, for a brief time, Newt Gingrich did: the anti-Mitt. The non-Romney. Other. Anyone But.

Santorum’s social conservatism carried him much further than anyone could have imagined, but it was bound to fail and it could never last: women, after all, still have the right to vote.

In a primary known for its bizarre and deranged savagery, it is now a preordained race to the very bitter end. You want to write, with pun intended, that Santorum is determined to be the last to pull out, but with the cartoonish Gingrich and batty Paul still in, the joke remains holstered. Everyone has lost their mind.

What happens next is sad. We’ll watch the slow recede and see the media turn away, as the rest of the country begins to focus on the general election. Eyes will glaze over at the sight and sound of one Willard “Mitt” Romney, fabricating profusely. And we’ll long for the reality show atmosphere that prevailed for so long, vile and entertaining as it was.

Santorum won’t know it for sure, but he’ll feel something shift underneath him, eventually. Losing in his home state of Pennsylvania, that might ring a bell.

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