won't be the final trifecta, because Romney will take the eventual nomination.
The real question for this primary and for all the others is: who will campaign all the way to the convention, even when the delegate count is certain for Mitt, and why?
There two reasons to do this: to keep your name in there for the next presidential election, and/or to influence the platform.
I have a hard time believing Santorum is anything but a flash in the pan. His Congressional career began when he stumbled across an opponent who made the mistake of spending too much time outside of his district, which kept the debate unfocused on anything resembling issues or ability. It ended with Santorum on the receiving end of an epic defeat for an incumbent in Pennsylvania. When you get brutally booted out of your own statewide office in a place with that many electoral votes, you ain't an ideal candidate. Further, no matter what happens in Iowa, Romney is gong to maul him in Hew Hampshire.
But what about the others?
I've been thinking for a while that Gingrich will hold on to the bitter end for the second reason mentioned above, as this is his last chance to be relevant as anything other than a commentator, and he knows it (it will also increase sales of his bad fiction, as well as his non-academic work).
Now I'm wondering if a least one other candidate will do the same.
Bachmann is a true believer in her cause and might fight on; same goes for Paul. Perry might think he has a shot for 2016, even though his political tombstone has been carved (love to see a campaign ad featuring someone asking him where he put the nuclear codes and him responding: "oops"). Huntsman has stayed in this far for absolutely no reason, why not keep on going?
So the next question becomes, if any of these folks winds up with a delegate count high enough to get a prime-time spot at the convention, what will that do to Romney's prospects?
In '92, Pat Buchanan got such a spot in the convention that nominated Poppy Bush to run against Bill Clinton. As Al Franken pointed out in, I think, the wonderful book Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, Buchanan's call for America to declare a religious war on itself helped scare the entire country into voting Democratic.
Such an event would be nice this time around, too, though we have to take into account that 'ole Pat would be in the left wing of the Republican field nowadays.
Still, as long as the Republicans keep on stripping away each others' disguises, their chances diminish. Hopefully, we can see this slip over into the Congressional races too, as Cantor and company start sharpening the knives and Boehner circles his wagons.
With the right push, the biggest political story of 2012 could be "the continuing collapse of the Republican Party".
9:57 AM PT: Okay, a wise friend pointed out two me two things:
1. Richard Nixon failed to carry California against Pat Brown, California has the most electoral votes in the Union, and he still became President. So, anything is possible for Santorum. However, I think Nixon, monstrous though he was, also had a monstrous intellect that Santorum can't match.
2. Pat Buchanan didn't scare the entire country into voting Democratic, but he helped. Clinton also got a nice bonus from Ross Perot muddling the race.