It’s now Romney vs. Obama

Rick Santorum withdrew today, finally, from the Republican presidential campaign. His dream of becoming the party’s candidate and then beat President Obama in November remains a dream.

Instead, it’s now official, or semi-official until the Republican Convention in Tampa, that president Obama’s opponent in November is Mitt Romney. No surprise there. Still, Romney must be happy. Santorum’s vicious attacks had forced Romney further and further to the right, something that could seriously hamper his chances to beat Obama in the fall.

See Think Progress’s compilation of Santorum’s attacks.

Few, if any saw it coming, including myself. Santorum’s campaign was one big surprise, from the role almost like a movie extra at the beginning, when no one could explain why he even ran after his humiliating defeat in 2006 when he tried to get re-elected to the US Senate from Pennsylvania, to becoming Romney’s foremost rival. He had no money, no party endorsements, no election organization, and a message much too far to the right. He never had a real chance to win the nomination — his right-wing message had few excited beyond the Christian Right and the Tea Party movement — but he ran a good race, to a great extent it should be added, because of Romney’s weaknesses as a candidate.

Today, when Santorum gave up and paved the way for Mitt Romney’s final victory, he had won in eleven states, received a total of 3.2 million votes, and collected 272 delegates. He was the runner-up, although far behind Romney with 656 delegates and 4.6 million votes, but well ahead of Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, both with no chance of final victory but still, inexplicably, in the race.

Santorum gave as the main reason for today’s decision ruling his daughter’s illness, but surely he also wanted to avoid a threatening, and humiliating, defeat in Pennsylvania’s primary on April 24, where Romney had been gaining strength lately. A defeat there could have had serious repercussions for Santorum’s future political career.

The U.S. presidential election campaign, which already seems to have lasted an eternity, still has seven months to go. The battle is now between Obama and Romney. Today, Obama leads. Check out how it all looks like, according to today’s survey by Washington Post/ABC News.

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