In Our View: Tighter Focus for the GOP

Santorum’s decision allows Romneyto focus on the No. 1 issue: the economy

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Rick Santorum’s exiting the Republican race for president wasn’t the only Tuesday news story to affect GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney. A second significant story was that fifth-straight losing session on Wall Street. Nothing like a 214-point dip in the Dow to refocus Americans on what should be the No. 1 issue: the economy.

Here in Clark County, more than one Republican convention organizer must be thinking it sure would’ve been nice if Santorum’s surrender had been announced a couple of weeks earlier. Santorum supporters -- along with typically feisty Ron Paul backers -- were right in the thick of that passionate (OK, a euphemism) county convention two Saturdays ago. In fact, Santorum won five times as many county delegates as Romney, 30 to six. (Paul led with 37 delegates, and Newt Gingrich got two.)

But the swagger that the Santorumites showed March 31 in Vancouver was missing at Santorum’s press conference in Gettysburg, Pa., where he announced “this presidential race for us is over” while also vowing “we are not done fighting.”

Romney no doubt hopes all of that continued fighting will be directed at President Obama. Paul and Gingrich, though, continue to naively suggest they still have a chance. Our invitation to these two distant contenders is to do the math in this three-part equation based on Associated Press estimates:

Romney has more than twice as many delegates (660) as Santorum (281), who quit the race, knowing he needed to win 80 percent of the remaining delegates to garner the nomination before the national convention in Tampa.

Santorum had more than twice as many delegates as Gingrich (135), yet on Tuesday, Gingrich said: “I am committed to staying in this race all the way to Tampa so that the conservative movement has a real choice.” A choice? Perhaps. A chance? No.

Gingrich has more than twice as many delegates as Paul (51), yet on Tuesday Paul proclaimed himself to be “the last — and real — conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.” Maybe that’s true in Clark County, Mr. Paul, but that 660-51 looks mighty imposing on the national front.

Notwithstanding the recalcitrance of Gingrich and Paul, Romney will strengthen his call for unity in the battle to unseat the incumbent president. In our state, we expect that call to be answered at county GOP conventions this weekend in Seattle, Spokane and Olympia, then at the state convention May 30-June 2 in Tacoma.

As for Santorum’s future, it depends on how vigorously and successfully the social conservatives can affect the general party platform. One certainty, though, is that he escapes the possible embarrassment of a home-state loss in the Pennsylvania primary on April 24. Coupled with his devastating 18-point loss as an incumbent senator in 2006, another Pennsylvania setback could’ve sealed the casket on his political future.

Well, the Republicans’ “anyone-but-Romney” extravaganza was fun while it lasted. Challengers with names like Bachmann, Cain, Huntsman, Perry and now Santorum disappeared in Romney’s dust.

Practically speaking, all that’s left now for Romney is to narrow the focus on two targets: Obama and the economy.