Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum: Republican Groundhogs

Opinion

   on February 01 2012 12:14 PM
Republican presidential candidate Santorum speaks as Gingrich listens during the Republican presidential candidates debate in Jacksonville
Republican presidential candidate former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) speaks as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R) listens during the Republican presidential candidates debate in Jacksonville, Florida, January 26, 2012. REUTERS

Groundhog Day is upon us. Up in Punxsutawney, Penn., the famous prognosticating groundhog Phil may see his shadow this year. We could be in for six more weeks of winter. Never mind the fact that it's been so unseasonably warm that Al Gore started writing the script for his next Oscar-winning documentary called Ha! I Told You So. If Phil says winter will continue then, by golly, it will.

Kind of reminds me of what went on in Florida this week. Newt Gingrich crawled out of his hole, gazed upon his own dark shadow, and declared that the battle for the Republican nomination would last six more months. Never mind the fact that he just got trounced in Florida across every age, race and gender bracket. Never mind that Romney polls stronger against Barack Obama in every battleground state. Newt is the authority on these matters and if he says the primary campaign will continue all the way up until the convention then, by golly, it will.

There is another fellow vying for the role of GOP electoral groundhog -- Rick Santorum. He gathered in front of a small crowd of less than 100 in Nevada last night to lay out his own predictions about the primary race. Despite finishing well behind Gingrich in both South Carolina and Florida, he predicted that he, not Gingrich, would emerge as Romney's chief rival for the nomination. 'I'm going to be the conservative alternative. I'm going to be the anti-Mitt, he told supporters.

What is it with these guys from Pennsylvania? Punxsutawney Phil and Santorum are from the Keystone State. Gingrich was born there. They all seem to believe they have the power to determine the future. Phil the groundhog confidently decrees whether winter will continue until March. Gingrich and Santorum declare that the primary race will continue until August, regardless of how badly they are both losing to Romney.

This primary reminds me of one of the funniest movies of all time, Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray plays a jaded TV weatherman who mysteriously gets stuck living the same day over and over and over again. I'll give you a winter prediction, he says at one point, It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life.

Gingrich is doing his best to keep it exciting. Over the weekend, he made a play for Santorum's voters, saying: Please just try to convince your friends the only effective practical conservative vote on Tuesday is for Newt Gingrich, he said, that's just a fact. But Romney's vote total in Florida ended up being greater than that of Gingrich and Santorum combined. And polls indicate that if Santorum were to drop out, it would likely benefit Romney, not Gingrich.

On the upside, Romney's Republican rivals have made him a stronger candidate by exposing some of his weaknesses early in the process, and by motivating the reserved governor/CEO to stand up and fight for his life after losing in South Carolina. Republican voters clearly want a candidate with passion, one who can argue his case effectively against the Democrats in Washington. On the downside, Romney is spending more and more money running against his fellow Republicans, while Obama and his Super PACs stockpile a billion-dollar war chest of campaign cash for the general election.

As Romney's primary victories continue to pile up in the coming weeks, pressure will mount for Gingrich and Santorum to fall in behind Romney for the good of all Americans who fear another four years with Obama in the White House, appointing liberal activist judges, and racking up trillion dollar annual deficits.

But, for now, the two Republican groundhogs show no sign of retreat. Santorum told an audience last week, We're not going anywhere. We are going to be in this race, we are going to stay in this race for the long haul. Likewise, Gingrich's campaign has said it is aiming to force a brokered convention. After a resounding defeat Tuesday night, the campaign distributed signs to supporters that said, 46 states to go.

Looks like Republicans are in for a long winter.

Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix. He writes about culture and politics every Wednesday for the International Business Times. Follow him on Twitter @nathanharden

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