Mitt, Rick & Newt
Rick Santorum called it a day yesterday afternoon.
In one of those weird campaign events, Santorum's folks tried to keep what the event was to be under wraps until about 2 p.m. Eastern.
But, the staff got buffaloed into giving up the fact that Santorum would be "suspending" his campaign so, by the time the event started at about 2:20, every person on the planet with a Twitter account was writing about it.
Santorum's withdrawal from the campaign was a paradox: He had done too well to stay in any longer.
The Pennsylvania primary will be held on April 24. If Santorum were to win (not a foregone conclusion) he would have been locked into the race through May and probably through June.
This is April 10. Santorum is pretty much out of money. The notion of pretending to compete against Mitt Romney for the next 10 weeks was too much to contemplate.
If Santorum were to lose in Pennsylvania (also not a foregone conclusion) then his political career would end with a dull thud.
Santorum had no good way to move on, so he got out.
Much has been made about the fact that Santorum didn't mention Romney in his exit speech, but there is not a great deal of love between the two, so we should give Santorum a pass.
It is possible that no serious candidate for President ever did more with less - less personality, less money, a more narrow message - than Santorum.
So, he gets points for that.
I suspect that, by 2:27 yesterday afternoon, there were Santorum staffers talking with Romney staffers about what role Santorum could/would play in the campaign moving forward; what financial help Romney would be willing to provide Santorum; and so on.
I do not think Santorum is on the Romney's draft board as a potential VP candidate, but I am often wrong about these things.
Now, to Newt.
On Sunday, Newt was conciliatory toward the concept of a likely Romney candidacy. He was charming about it. He was smart about it. He was accepting of it.
On Tuesday, after Santorum's presser, Newt recoiled into the strange and frightening World of Newt and proclaimed himself the last standing conservative alternative to Romney.
Newt, by his own accounting, is $4.5 million - MILLION - in debt. In his version of reality, Santorum's supporters will immediately pivot to Gingrich, hoisting him on their collective shoulders to proclaim him their conservative savior.
They will not.
If voters loved Newt that much they would have been voting for Newt that often.
They did not.
Everyone on this continent, with the possible exception of Newt, noted that he did not win in DC, Maryland, or Wisconsin last week.
He came in FOURTH in DC, Maryland, and Wisconsin behind Ron Paul.
Most normally wired human beings would find that result, at a minimum, embarrassing; and, at a maximum, cause to run into the sea and attempt swim to Portugal.
Newt, having watched Santorum's presser, had Sugarplum Fairies dancing in his head telling him that he, Newt, is the fairest in the land.
He is not.
Not in this land, nor in any other land on any planet in any galaxy in the known universe.
In typical fashion, just when you thought Newt might have redeemed himself, he does something that proves your original opinion of him was correct.
I know that I mixed a Tchaikovsky reference with a Brothers Grimm reference, but I liked it, so there you are.
So, Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee.
Here's where I think the campaign between Romney and Obama will be decided: Who has the ability to guide the nation through the next coming worldwide economic downturn.
If Americans think that class warfare is the right approach, then Barack Obama will be re-elected.
If, on the other hand, Americans believe that expanding opportunities to succeed is the best way forward, then Mitt Romney will be sworn in on January 20, 2013.
In mid-April, it's too close to call.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the NY Times coverage of the Santorum suspension; a very excellent Mullfoto from New York City over the weekend, and a Catchy Caption of the Day.