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Can Santorum Come Back?

1:00 PM, Mar 1, 2012 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Is the GOP presidential race effectively over? It could turn out that Mitt Romney’s narrow victory in Michigan, and the understandable (if misplaced) concern of lots of Republicans that the continued primary contest is doing damage to the chances of defeating President Obama in the fall, will enable Romney to do well enough next Tuesday to get a real snowball effect, a real sense of inevitability, going.

Rick Santorum

On the other hand: Republican primary voters have resisted the inevitable so far, and haven't wanted to end the race. And they may choose keep the race alive Tuesday. They're more likely to do so if Santorum can elevate his campaign from hand-to-hand combat with the better-financed Romney to a campaign on behalf of a cause bigger than himself. Santorum needs to be the spokesman for the people against the establishment, for the Tea Party against the GOP elites, for the spirit of 2010 against the spirit of 2008, for Main Street against Wall Street, for the country against the insiders, for the faithful against their cultured despisers. Santorum's campaign has to be about more than Santorum. It has to be about the future of the GOP, the conservative movement, and the nation.

This Santorum campaign ad from a while ago—called “Rebellion”—suggests his campaign is capable of seeing the broader message that's available to him. Can he articulate such a message, and punch through with it, in the next few days? If so, the race may have interesting twists and turns ahead.

UPDATE: I just had lunch with a Democratic political operative whom I respect. He said he thought Santorum had more of a chance than many would think against Romney, and then against Obama--if Santorum can go back and capture the spirit of this speech the night of the Iowa caucus

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