Rick Santorum

The Romney campaign put out a meme that Rick Santorum’s in the race for President to ensure Romney loses in 2012, so that Santorum can run in 2016 and the media has joined in the speculation that 2016 is the real prize for Santorum. Even some supporters have whispered that if Santorum doesn’t win in 2012, there’s always 2016.

Opponents and the press are guilty of extreme cynicism, while some supporters may be presuming too much about the future. All of this is based on a tradition that probably doesn’t apply to Santorum. In Republican politics, repeat candidates commonly win the nomination: Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, and John McCain. Romney supporters hope to add his name to the list.  So, losing a nomination battle is almost considered a pre-requisite to winning it in the future, particularly if you finish second. You’re next in line.

However, this isn’t always the case. In 2008, Governor Mike Huckabee was the last man standing against John McCain. He, like Santorum, had remained in the race after the media and many pundits had considered the GOP race over. Many supporters hoped that Huckabee would repeat in 2012. Huckabee even hinted at a possible 2012 run in the conclusion of his 2009 Campaign book, Do the Right Thing. However, with strong poll numbers in Iowa and nationwide, Huckabee announced in May that while all the signs said “go,” his heart said, “no.”

Purely cynical political analysts concluded that despite Huckabee simply didn’t want to give up the money he was earning. But perhaps the deeper truth is that Huckabee likes what he’s doing. He grew up in broadcasting and grew up listening to Paul Harvey. Now, in most markets, Huckabee holds the radio time slot previously occupied by the late Harvey’s News and Comment show. Huckabee also is in a position to advocate for issues he cares about with his Learn Our History video series, a pro-life documentary, and a successful PAC. All of this would have to be placed aside to enter the fray.

In addition, Huckabee’s health has not been as strong as it was in 2008 campaign. He’s gained weight due to a knee injury that has hindered the former marathon runner’s exercise routine.

A second Santorum bid would be less likely for an entirely different reason. While Huckabee’s children were all grown by the time of his 2008 bid, Santorum has four children that will be at home when the 2012 campaign starts, and two that will be in college. Santorum has made clear that this campaign has been a sacrifice for his entire family. It would be the height of presumption to assume that Santorum and his family would be up for another year plus of the craziness that Presidential candidates and their families must endure, and that Santorum would miss even more time with his family to begin again inIowa.  In addition to that, six of Santorum will hit college age before this decade is out, making another year or more without income a costly gamble.

This also, by the way,  partly explain  Santorum and Huckabee’s continued fight.

Reagan, Bush, Dole, McCain, and now Romney were financially well off, their child-rearing days were, for the most part, over by the time their second presidential bid began.  For Huckabee, Santorum, and others who have just arrived in the upper middle class, the realities of life mean that this may be their only chance to run.

By design, Presidential campaigns are expensive, complicated, and emotionally and physically draining. This scares off some people who would make great presidents and benefits those who are supported by large political organizations or have significant personal fortunes. When candidates like Santorum or Huckabee see success, they have every reason to carry on their fight as long as they can because they know that this may be their only chance to make their case. This may be their only opportunity to fight for their principles as a candidate for the highest office in the land.

Those who expect Rick Santorum to leave the race because he faces long odds should forget it. The truth is, he’s faced long odds this whole campaign. With all the sacrifices he and his family made over the year-long campaign, there’s no chance that he’ll quit as long as he has any chance of winning. Having endured twenty-one Presidential debates, hundreds of townhalls, and months on end away from hearth and home for this long, there’s no reason for Rick Santorum to quit as long as there’s a chance that his principles will prevail in 2012.

He’s certainly not soldiering on in hopes of starting from scratch in 2015.

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