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I think that the reason Santorum has declined so fast is that the events of the last couple of weeks have emphasized his biggest weakness.  In terms of appealing to center-right voters, the biggest knock on Santorum was the he was a loser.  Sure he is more really pro-life than Romney and more mentally stable than Gingrich, but we shouldn’t support him because he can’t get enough support.  There was quite a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy going on here of course.  The good news for Santorum was that if he started winning, there was a large group of people who were left with not a lot of good reasons to not support him and plenty of good reasons not to support his opponents.  So if he looked like a winner, a lot of people were ready to come aboard.  But even after his initial wins, there was still a question about whether he really was a loser.  Could he take the heat?  So Santorum has spent the last week fighting with the ghost of JFK’s Houston speech, calling Obama a snob (over the secondary issue of who should be going to college - an interesting discussion, but not high salience), and losing a debate to Romney.  He can’t pick his fights, can’t pick his words, and can’t beat Romney when the heat is on.  His debate performance actually wasn’t that bad, but he looked like a loser again. Then he lost two primaries.  The good news is that he can get his mojo back with a better-than-expected performance somewhere.  The bad news is that he will still be Rick Santorum and he will screw it up again - if not in the primaries (most likely), then in the general election.  He can’t help himself for very long.

One of the themes of this Republican primary season is that Republican voters don’t seem to be able to bear looking at or thinking about any of these candidates for very long.  When the focus is on one candidate, the voters look at that candidate’s weaknesses, and become repulsed.  We are being reintroduced to Mitt Romney’s 2009 suggestion that President Obama support a federal version of the Massachusetts health insurance purchase mandate.  The voters then turn their attention to an alternative.  Since they aren’t focusing on that alternative’s weaknesses, the alternative starts looking really good.  They, when they turn their full attention to the alternative, the voters become disgusted and look for an alternative to the alternative.  Rinse and repeat.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised by a Gingrich surge.  He has found a groove with his $2.50 gas slogan and nobody is attacking him, so his weaknesses are out of sight and (somewhat) out of mind.  So we might see a third Gingrich surge or a third Santorum surge.  And then another Romney surge.  All of this is going to be accompanied with discontent.  It is like the Republicans have three cartons of rotten milk.  They’ve already taken a taste out of each carton and, on some level, know the milk is bad in all of them.  So they take out a carton, pour a drink, gag, put the carton back in the refrigerator, and take out one of the other two cartons that they’ve already gagged on .  And they keep doing it over and over again.

I’m still voting for Mitch Daniels.

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