msnbc | April 10, 2012
>> the news. mark, nbc news has confirmed that rick santorum is suspending his campaign. so there's the news that many were expecting today. that he is now suspending his campaign and many would say, mark, perfect timing here for him.
>> the handwriting had been on the wall for a long time. as we were mentioning, showing the polls with a close race in pennsylvania , with the possibility that he could lose his home state. him bowing out right now, at least suspending his campaign. he is ending on a very high note . out of everyone else, the person who was the chief rival to mitt romney , and i have if i want to, the possibility to still run for president in 2016 or 2020 .
>> let's talk about the remarkable nature of what you just said. he in a sense was the last man standing between mitt romney and the nomination. the point i was attempting to make before we got the breaking news is that rick santorum was not a candidate that people took seriously. we even know the man's name was mocked on the internet. he was infamous for the compare sob he made between homosexuality and bestiality. this guy was not seen as a contender. but it was the most conservative of that party who really held him, if you will, through this process and made him a chief rival because they were unwilling to support mitt romney .
>> what was extraordinary was, as you remember when this republican campaign season started in the spring of 2011 , we saw one republican after another soar in the polls, only to crash back down to earth. we saw it with michele bachmann . what was very interesting, rick santorum was the one who ended up being able to pull out a very narrow victory in iowa in that first contest. and of course, he wasn't able to use that iowa victory as a spring board later on. where he found some good strategy was he concentrated in a lot of the early february contests that mitt romney wasn't paying attention. to i'm talking about the caucuses in colorado, in minnesota, as well as a beauty contest in missouri. he won all three. all of a sudden he emerged as the chief conservative alternative to mitt romney . and was able to do that with those three contests. and again, what was very interesting as we battled through all these primaries, going into states like michigan, ohio, wisconsin, the most important thing was always at the number of evangelicals in these states. where rick santorum was able to do well is where these states that had a large number of evangelicals oftentimes more than 50% or more of the republican electorate. he ended up losing is where you didn't have that very big evangelical base. so that was the dynamic that we saw back and forth over a two or two and a half month period.
>> let me bring in chuck todd . timing is everything. we know that. you have rick santorum dealing with a very personal family issue with his daughter. we also know politically, there was a lot at stake. you had mitt romney pull this ad in pennsylvania but basically the ad said, pennsylvania didn't want santorum as the senator for that state and they wouldn't want him as president them pulled that ad because of the child's illness. the reality is he was facing a scary situation. dawning political situation ahead in pennsylvania .
>> it was. let's just remember here, these guys, running for president is personally draining, emotionally draining. so here is his entire family. his kids have taken, the ones that are of college age have taken the semester off to campaign with him and they have this sort of constant family health crisis at home with their youngest child. so throw all of that stress that you're carrying. the stress of your own political career and this obviously means something to him. he would like to have a, become a national statesman of sorts. i think he is in many cases, won enough primaries to earn that. you throw the whole thing together. you said timing is everything. how much did the time at home over the easter holiday, having to face this challenge with bella, sort of impact him in a way that said, you know, having to deal with a negative campaign that could have gotten rough, could have gotten ugly, and sort of really embarrassing. that's not the way he wanted to go out. he does get to go out on a higher note this way. and that's something that, he could end up still winning a primary or two in may as a quote, suspended campaign.
>> absolutely. and i've got this in. mitt romney has said he has spoken with santorum . they've talked. romney wants him to endorse him. this is what david gregory has put in. this is some of the information we have. the reality is what kind of player in this game will rick santorum be? as i pointed out, you know this as well. he even complained about fox news of all places, not really giving him the attention. he took on bill o 'reilly. felt that he was this ignored candidate even from the gop. what you and i have seen in this exit polling information is that he is still a powerful voice with the most conservative in that party. even after his comments on jfk. even after the contraception issues. he still has some heavyweight clout with those who aren't ready to embrace mitt romney . those evangelical christian conservatives.
>> i don't know if i agree with that. i don't know if he has the clout. what he simply an anti- romney vehicle? and i think that is always going to be the question. santorum 's campaign will be judged through. he was the guy who was the truest blue social conservative that was running. i tell you, i remember having rick santorum laid this campaign out for me back in 2010 . right after the 2010 -- right before the 2010 election. they laid out how this would work and how they would be the last guy standing . you sort of chuckled to yourself. yeah, right, how are you going to be the last guy standing ? they did see this path. once place he did have a connection. his connection was social conservatives . in the social conservative movement, the pro-life movement is a very powerful movement and it has always been very supportive of santorum . he was able to tap into it, in a way more creditably than any of the other conservatives could do. when you look back on santorum 's campaign, you're going to say where trurm came up short. he couldn't merge the two. we always had said, it is the evangelical community plus tea party . there was some overlap but not complete. you had to have them both. and he could never fully grab teem fully in his column. partially because he was a washington guy. i think that was tough.
>> obviously, with the tea party portion of this equation, many have felt their influence would be congressional state races. we've not seen that influence in the primary. with rick santorum and this conversation about his clout, we've watched these speeches from rick santorum where he talks about his grandfather. talks about that background. when you look at the latest polling regarding mitt romney , it is the very connection that rick santorum was able to make on this genuine likable level with those who might be willing to vote that is still greatly lacking with mitt romney at a time where we are about to start discussing what is tax fairness or what the republicans call, if you will, this war on the elth wealthy or class warfare .
>> i think we will look back on this and say, was it santorum 's ability to connect or was it romney 's inability to connect? and i think how much of santorum 's success has really been about romney 's shortcomings? and i think this is not, i just don't see the parallel, for instance, between santorum now and reagan '76. i think he homes that parallel exists for his own political future.
>> all right, chuck. thank you. let me bring in andrea mitchell . this is all peculiar timing for you. you have a big guest scheduled tomorrow with the santorum campaign. you ended your show by saying, i don't know if he will show up. here we have the information that the campaign is suspended.
>> it will be a good opportunity. we hope he shows up because it will be a good opportunity to see what happened. there are a lot of questions to be answered. is he going to endorse mitt romney ? you know there have been very, very contentious things said. will he withhole his delegates and still win a couple of primaries? i think if you look at the wisconsin results, he was losing his grip on the white evangelical voters. in fact many were voting for mitt romney . he won more than any primary in massachusetts and new hampshire. so he was beginning to make inroads with what we would have thought was trul's base. the aura of a winner was attaching to mitt romney . he was endorsed by the former governor of eiowa. we know the two have talked. we don't know what santorum has said about his delegates and what role he wants to play. newt gingrich has been about whatever role he might have at the convention on the platform issues and santorum could try to wield a heavy hand with that. certainly get the enthusiasm for those in the south, especially, white evangelicals who have not been gung-ho about mitt romney . we also know those same people would not vote for president obama . it is not a matter of those folks in mississippi, alabama, changing their vote to become a democrat. but it is about enthusiasm and if they can get out and have these big rallies, as we have seen at different points with rick santorum where people were really fired up and inspired, i guess, by his message.
>> we saw the best speech he gave was after iowa . and that was the surprise near win at the time. it turned out to be a victory. if he had stuck to those economic issues. as chuck was suggesting he can never quite merged the social conservative side of rick santorum with the tea party supporters. because he was a former washingtonian. he said he was a nonlobbyist but that's really a term of art. he had done a lot of representation and a lot of advocacy on behalf of different interest groups and had made a lot of money. he was in a world of trouble regarding the pennsylvania primary itself. many are saying he should have gotten out when it was clear over the one except perhaps rick santorum that romney would be the nominee.
>> to your point that it has been the conversation from the republican leadership even that at this point, let's get this together. let's get behind mitt romney . the damage that is being caused now could be certainly detrimental in the general election . i can talk even specifically, rick santorum taking on mitt romney regarding health care and basically saying that there is no difference between what mitt romney , passed and signed as governor of massachusetts , and what right now is before the supreme court of this country. and he made for those conservatives out there, i think, a very easy argument as to why they should not get behind mitt romney . especially those, andrea, who are hell-bent on repealing what they refer to agency obamacare.
>> how many times, a good point you make. how many times have we heard rick santorum on the stump saying that the whole health care issue would be denied to the republican party with mitt romney as the nominee because he could not make the argument effectively against the president's health care plan. he's going to have to take back a whole lot and that makes the very awkward to see what kind of announcement he will make. maybe he will talk about family problems and the stress on the family and about the money. clearly that's what newt gingrich has been saying to explain his defeat. not to his own failures but suggesting that the romney campaign' hughes financial advantage is what drove him out of race.