Last night Mitt Romney won three more primaries, in Maryland, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. He is now even farther ahead in the race for delegates — so far ahead, in fact, that his nearest challenger, Rick Santorum, would need to win 80 percent of the remaining delegates to win the nomination. Does anyone — outside of the Santorum family, perhaps — seriously think we are on the brink of the tidal wave of previously undetected support for Rick Santorum needed for that to happen? Nevertheless, Santorum has vowed to continue the race.
That kind of stubborn and inexplicable vanity, I think, is one thing that distinguishes politicians from normal human beings. Why does Santorum think that he is so special that he must continue a race that is, for all practical purposes, already ended? He was crushed in his last general election, when he sought reelection to his Senate seat in Pennsylvania. He’s now been beaten in the majority of the primaries and caucuses in this 2012 primary season. Why doesn’t he go gently into that good night?
The problem, I suspect, is that politicians spend most of their time in a cocoon of staffers, supporters, and sycophants. They go to rallies where people cheer their every word. Everyone they encounter tells them they are great, and they come to believe it. And when election results are inconsistent with that belief, the results are rationalized away as the result of unlucky national trends, or being outspent, or ineffective advertising, or other factors that don’t reflect on the politicians themselves. They cling to the belief that if only voters really knew them and truly understood their positions, they would be elected by acclamation.
I can’t psychoanalyze Rick Santorum. The same goes for Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, who also are continuing their quixotic campaigns. They all need to realize, however, that they aren’t essential to the future of our republic. Voters do understand them and their positions and have decided to vote for someone else.
They also need to consider one other point: voters make judgments not only on the basis of TV commercials and debate blunders, but also because they weigh whether the candidate’s conduct seems to reflect the qualities we think a President should possess. Being unable to recognize reality isn’t one of them.