Unlike Mad Men, the GOP presidential primary is not entering its fifth season. It only seems that way. The grim numerical inevitability of Mitt Romney’s nomination advanced on Tuesday with his win in the Illinois primary. The mainstream media is portraying this is as a blowout, and it is, in the sense that using tactical nuclear weapons to get rid of crabgrass would be a blowout. Romney and his allies outspent Romney’s nearest rival, Rick Santorum, by a ratio of 7 to 1. Put it another way, Romney spent approximately $14 per winning vote against a candidate so inept that he spent the day before election day explaining that he didn’t really believe that non-Christians had to leave the country, as one evangelical supporter proclaimed to a crowd, while Santorum applauded. (No points for guessing that the minister in question, Dennis Terry, has a long history of attacking gays.)
At this stage, the GOP presidential race has all the interest of an actuarial table. The odds remain stacked for Romney. Mathematically it’s virtually impossible for Santorum, let alone Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul, to amass enough delegates to prevent Romney from winning the nomination outright. Santorum’s only chance was to come up with a game-changing strategy. Instead, he decided to tell the world he wants to be president so he can declare war on pornography, while struggling with ballot problems in his home state. And yet it seems the only way Romney can vanquish Santorum is by burying him with money.
Santorum can probably count on a few more victories in the South, where Mormonism and Massachusetts don’t play well. But the only reason he remains in the race is that the GOP base just can’t warm up to Romney. In the end, they may have to, but given the way the primaries have gone so far, the end may still be a long ways off.