Santorum meets with movement conservatives

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says his campaign has reached half-time, but to some it appears to be on life support following a sweep in the 3 states that voted last Tuesday, all backing rival and stronger than ever GOP primary front-runner Mitt Romney. Whispers have grown louder from wings of the party who feel that the former senator’s campaign may have run its corse, but Santorum has vowed to carry on to April 24 where five states will hold their GOP primary, including his home state of Pennsylvania.

The four other remaining April primaries would all seem to be in Romney’s favor considering demographics and latest polling, but Pennsylvania is still leaning toward its former Senator, setting the stage for what may be Santorum’s last stand, The Los Angeles Times reports:

“Santorum has acknowledged that Pennsylvania is must-win for him. A defeat would effectively destroy his credibility as a presidential contender. But a victory could carry him to the final primaries in June, particularly because, as he alluded to Tuesday night, the May primaries are in states more favorable to a conservative candidate.

For Romney, knocking Santorum from contention with a Pennsylvania win would shorten the primary season by up to two months (in theory, by even more than that, if Santorum, Gingrich and Ron Paul were otherwise able to make a case that Romney hadn’t secured a delegate majority ahead of the nominating convention).”

Giving further evidence to how important the rest of April is for the future of the entire Santorum campaign, POLITICO reports that the candidate met with a group of longtime “movement” conservative leaders and Reagan-era activists in Northern Virginia Thursday to formulate a path forward for the once again outside chance that Santorum can knock off Romney. The consensus solution that can be deduced from comments made by leaders at the meeting seems to be the belief that Santorum needs to go big, POLITICO:

“After losing the Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington D.C. primaries this week, Santorum has been battling calls for him to withdraw from the race. The group he met with today includes a number of hard-line ideological stalwarts who remain committed to stopping Romney, however quixotic that mission is becoming.

Former Family Research Council chief Gary Bauer, who was present at the sit-down with Santorum, called it a ‘strategy meeting to discuss how Sen. Santorum prevails.’

‘I would say the consensus in the room is, we continue to believe that Sen. Santorum has the best message that is most likely in November to be a winning message,’ said Bauer, who ran for president himself in 2000. ‘And so because of that, we want to make sure that we’re doing all the things that need to be done so that he will be successful.’

Asked whether he would characterize the mood as one of optimism or pessimism, Bauer answered: ‘Realism.’

Viguerie, the legendary Republican direct-mail strategist, said the conservative group pitched ideas to Santorum on how to turn around his campaign.

‘Most of us don’t think we need small course corrections, we need to come up with some big, bold ideas,’ Viguerie said. He declined to be more specific but said to expect changes in Santorum’s approach ‘in the next seven to 10 days.’

‘He’s got to get control of the narrative,’ said the old conservative warrior. ‘Right now, he doesn’t have control of it and the establishment Republicans and the media are telling everybody it’s over with. That’s the thing you’ve got to deal with. He’s got to get access to a microphone.’”

The article goes on to report on the frustration among many Santorum supporters that Newt Gingrich has not stepped aside. POLITICO notes that this isn’t the first time that conservative leaders have met to try and coalesce support behind Santorum, noting a Houston meeting in early March of 200 conservatives who raised nearly $2 million for the former senator and declared their wholehearted support for him.

With the delegate race halfway finished and only two weeks before the Pennsylvania showdown, is this all too little, too late for Santorum?

It seems that Gingrich has already done his worst for the Santorum campaign by not backing out before Michigan or Ohio, where Santorum could have won both close races and slowed down Romney’s momentum, or before Alabama and Mississippi, where Santorum could have secured a more dominate delegate victory. For Santorum supporters to still complain about Gingrich at this point, just comes off as a broken record and an overestimate of the sway Gingrich will actual hold in primaries going forward.

As for the idea that massive “course corrections” and “big, bold ideas” are the answer for Santorum to revitalize his campaign at this point, I just don’t buy it.

Since Iowa, Santorum’s convicted, compassionate conservative message has been his biggest advantage over Romney, who has been perennially labeled a “flip-flopper” and lacking “core values” by both media commentators and political rivals. Avoiding gaffes and clearing up misconceptions about Santorum’s positions may be a positive, but pitching new “big, bold ideas” at this point in the campaign may only come off as a desperate last gasp for a candidate trying to avoid embarrassment in his home state’s primary just two weeks away.

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