Some Thoughts on Rick Santorum’s Exit

GOP candidate Rick Santorum announced the end of his campaign for the presidency today (see video above). He spoke of his ailing daughter Bella and of recent primary losses. I can’t imagine what it would be like to run a presidential campaign while tending to a critically ill daughter. His family surrounded him on stage during the announcement, and they all looked worn-down as they choked back tears. You can’t help but feel sympathy for their situation.

Santorum’s exit was inevitable. As Mitt Romney has racked up primary wins, it has become increasingly clear that there was no viable path forward for Santorum. It’s a tough pill to swallow if you’re a candidate. He fought as hard as he could, but he came up short in the end.

I am a big fan of Santorum, but his candidacy wasn’t perfect. On the one hand, he is the strongest spokesman for the issues that I care most about. On the other hand, his campaign was often undisciplined in its messaging. His presentation on the stump looked far different than the media’s portrayal of him. Some of that was the media’s fault. Some of it was his.

What I liked best about Santorum, however, was his passion for life and family issues. His positions on these issues and others have deep roots in the Christian natural law tradition. In other words, his positions are based on sound principle, not on political expediency. Santorum showed courage on social issues, and he was never cowed by pressure to accommodate his views to the modern spirit. He was always willing to defend the unborn and the sanctity of marriage. With Santorum’s exit, no candidate remains who is willing to defend the unborn and the family with the force and vigor of Rick Santorum.

Woulda-coulda-shoulda’s? Yeah, there were lots of them, but I’ll mention two. First, the Iowa Republican Party botched the news of Santorum’s win there on caucus night. As a result, he was deprived of the momentum that he needed to do well in South Carolina and beyond. Instead, it became a two-man contest to be the conservative alternative to Romney. A majority of GOP’ers were voting against Romney in many of those early primaries, but that majority was split between Santorum and Gingrich. If Santorum had left Iowa as the clear victor, I think the narrative of the GOP race might have been different.

Second, right around the time of the South Carolina primary when Newt Gingrich was on the ascent, a group of evangelical leaders met in Texas and voted Rick Santorum as their preferred candidate. This was too little, too late. Whether or not this endorsement would have moved the needle at an earlier time is something we’ll never know. Again, woulda-coulda-shoulda.

One more thing, Rick Santorum is about to be out of sight and out of mind for many Americans. That means that many people will forget about his daughter Bella as well. She is a walking miracle right now as her very life defies all the odds of those afflicted with Trisomy 18. She is not out of the woods and probably never will be. Who knows? Santorum’s exit from the campaign may be the answer to someone’s prayers for her. In any case, Daddy will be home soon, and that’s a good thing.


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