For many Republican voters, the whittling down of the 2012 GOP presidential field to Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum was a window into the alarming state of leadership on the Right and the sorry state of the Republican Party as an electoral force.
Romney was, by most accounts, the “next in line” candidate after running and failing in 2008. The GOP establishment rallied around him just as it had done with John McCain in 2008 and Bob Dole in 1996, with the same disappointing results.
But Santorum, whose 2012 candidacy went further than anyone could have imagined, managed to cobble together a coalition of disaffected GOP base voters out of the wreckage of the Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry camps to emerge as the standard bearer for the conservative wing of the GOP.
Santorum's success was surprising, given that his previous foray into elected politics had been an abject disaster—a 59-to-41 drubbing in the 2006 Senate race at the hands of Democrat Bob Casey that swept him out of office.
For most politicians, a loss like that would be career-ending. But for Santorum, it’s merely a bump in the road.