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Santorum's Progress in GOP Race is Historic Santorum's Progress in GOP Race is Historic

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The Trail: 2012 Presidential News from the Field / Election Analysis

Santorum's Progress in GOP Race is Historic

No insurgent has won this many contests since Ronald Reagan.

Rick Santorum speaks Friday at John Henry High School in Arlington Heights, Ill.(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

photo of Alex  Roarty
March 16, 2012

Dual victories in Alabama and Mississippi this week don’t change the fact Rick Santorum remains an underdog in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. But his candidacy is already historically significant. As Ralph Reed, a longtime GOP strategist and the chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, pointed out to National Journal, Santorum has already won more contests—10—than any challenger to the GOP establishment since conservative icon Ronald Reagan in 1976. “It is an impressive feat,” Reed said.

Reagan piled up victories in 11 primaries in 1976 and deprived President Ford of enough delegates to win the nomination outright. Ford prevailed at the convention but lost the general election. Four years later, Reagan won the nomination and the presidency.

Since Reagan’s high-water mark, conservative insurgents have fallen well short of Santorum’s victory count. Evangelist Pat Robertson won just a few GOP contests in 1988, while populist Pat Buchanan’s bid fizzled quickly after his surprise victory in New Hampshire in 1996. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee triumphed in seven states four years ago.

 

Santorum is hoping to notch more victories in the next few months in states such as Louisiana and Texas. As long as the potential for wins is out there, suggestions that he should exit the race are muted. If the former Pennsylvania senator continues to follow in Reagan’s footsteps, he will create convention havoc for front-runner Mitt Romney and end up as the nominee in 2016.

 

 

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