Paul Greenberg
The race for the Republican presidential nomination has been over for some time, and now Rick Santorum has finally admitted it -- and let it be over. At last. He's run a strong race, and is to be congratulated on it. He just ran too long.

Now this losing candidate can make his gala appearance at the GOP's national convention, and maybe quite a few afterward.

Newt Gingrich can deliver another stemwinder of a speech in Tampa that will excite the excitable to no great effect on anyone else.

And last and not just least but odd man out, Ron Paul can remain Ron Paul -- unchanged and unchangeable since circa 1896. More a museum piece than a presidential candidate. He can be put on exhibit at Tampa, too.

The good news is that now the real race can begin. The one to be decided in November.

The prelims were formally concluded Tuesday with Mr. Santorum's announcement that he was "suspending" his campaign -- that is, giving it a decent, prepaid interment. And everybody can move on to the main event.

The country has waited for this moment too long already. Let's get this show, the Big Show, on the road. And try to remember it's supposed to be fun, not just another endurance contest. And it will be. Even if that may take some grim-faced determination. Fun is too valuable, too essential, an ingredient of an American political campaign to let it be lost.

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Great losers can be fun, too. One thinks of Adlai Stevenson, who didn't take the precaution of hiding his wit while delivering some of the most eloquent campaign addresses in recent American history, maybe the most eloquent. The country, it turned out, liked Ike, but Adlai earned its respect. In part because, like Abe Lincoln, he knew how to tell a joke.

We are a fun-loving people, and if we ever stop being one, we'll stop being American. That's something else Europeans don't appreciate about America, which is another good reason to cultivate it.

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Just when this year's Republican presidential race was concluded may be a subject of some debate and any number of post-mortems among political junkies. My nomination would be the moment Mitt Romney swept the Illinois primary in March instead of just eking out another close win the way he did in Michigan and Ohio.

You might have your own nomination for the tipping point. Not that most Americans, being much too sane to follow these matters in tiresome detail, may much care about just when this intramural contest was decided. We're a people who tend to look ahead to the future, not back to the past -- as instructive as that perspective might be.

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Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.