Guy Benson

That headline is a slight stretch based on DeMint's literal phraseology, but not really; his message is clear enough.  The truest of true conservatives is casting in his lot with the likely (presumptive?) nominee:
 

"I can tell conservatives from my perspective is that, I'm not only comfortable with Romney, I'm excited about the possibility of him possibly being our nominee," DeMint said. "Again, this is not a formal endorsement and I do not intend to do that right now but I just think we just need to look at where we are."


If that didn't get the point across, the South Carolina Senator elaborated further:
 

"It's pretty clear who our nominee is...we all need to look at this presidential primary and encourage the candidates to do a little self-reflection here on what's good for our country. The sooner we can make a decision, the sooner we can focus on the real problem, which is Obama."


This was the political equivalent of baseball's unintentional intentional walk: The non-endorsement endorsement, with which DeMint flirted earlier in the cycle.  So, any "self-reflection" going on, Senator Santorum?  What's that you say?  Oh dear:
 
Rick Santorum played off of the Mitt Romney campaign’s Etch A Sketch gaffe today when he told an audience that the country might be better off with President Obama than with a candidate who will shift his positions with ease and who he believes is not very different from the president. “You win by giving people a choice. You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who’s just going to be a little different than the person in there. If you’re going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk with what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate of the future,” Santorum told a crowd at USAA.


The Santorum camp insists their guy didn't really mean it that way -- let's hope not -- but Team Romney has predictably worked itself into a lather of righteous indignation.  Here's the candidate's official response, sent to reporters last night:
 

"I am in this race to defeat Barack Obama and restore America's promise.  I was disappointed to hear that Rick Santorum would rather have Barack Obama as president than a Republican.  This election is more important than any one person.  It is about the future of America.  Any of the Republicans running would be better than President Obama and his record of failure."


Santorum's poorly-phrased comment is manna from heaven for the Romney campaign.  It allows them to pile on their most problematic remaining rival, paint him as giving aid and comfort to the opposition, and change the subject from Etch-a-Sketchgate -- all knowing full well that Santorum will strongly support the GOP nominee when push comes to shove.  Louisiana polling shows Santorum ahead comfortably in advance of Saturday's election.  But even if he picks off another Southern state, does Illinois + Jeb Bush + Jim DeMint + the math = game over? 

 


UPDATE - Santorum speaks:
 

"I would never vote for Barack Obama over any Republican and to suggest otherwise is preposterous. This is just another attempt by the Romney Campaign to distort and distract the media and voters from the unshakeable fact that many of Romney's policies mirror Barack Obama's..."


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography