All along it was expected a Rick would win the Louisiana primary.
The expectation early on was that the Rick in question would be Perry, since he was the governor of next-door Texas and had the endorsement of Gov. Bobby Jindal. But of course Perry’s campaign flamed out before the South Carolina primary, and at that point Louisiana became, for a time, wide open.
And as things played out Louisiana became an important primary for the first time in modern memory.
It is a consequential primary, for certain. It’s consequential because it finishes Newt Gingrich as a serious contender for the presidency.
Gingrich pulled out all the stops in an effort to win Louisiana, crisscrossing the state and getting good crowds. But with 66 percent reporting, he’s got just 16 percent of the vote and he’s a poor third behind Santorum’s 49 percent and Mitt Romney’s 26.
Gingrich no longer has a path to the nomination. Going forward it appears possible that he might not even affect the dynamics of the primary race and it won’t even matter whether he stays in or gets out.
The real question coming out of these results is whether Santorum’s win in Louisiana has any real importance on a national scale. He’s going to have to win in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – he’s an underdog in Wisconsin and the favorite in his home state, and then it might set up Texas as the real showdown.
Santorum’s unfortunate quote about how the country might be better off with a second term of Obama than a first term of Romney, and his rather clunky walking-back of that quote didn’t affect him here. Nationally, the guess is he did himself some damage. And with a very small window of opportunity for him to beat Romney, he can’t afford to make statements that might alienate Republicans.
For example, even in Louisiana where Santorum won today exit polls show that Romney gets a strong plurality on the question of who’d be the strongest candidate against Barack Obama this fall. He seems to have closed the deal with conservatives as the standard-bearer in the party, and that makes him the Last Non-Romney Standing.
But it’s questionable, even with tonight’s big win, whether that will be enough.