Guy Benson
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Curtains for Rick Santorum?
 

Mitt Romney's taken the lead in PPP's newest poll of Rick Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania. Romney has 42% to 37% for Santorum with Ron Paul at 9% and Newt Gingrich at 6%. The numbers represent a dramatic turnaround from when PPP polled the state a month ago. Romney's gained 17 points, going from 25% to 42%. Meanwhile Santorum's dropped 6 points from 43% to 37%, for an overall swing of 23 points in the last four weeks.

Pennsylvania Republicans are expressing major doubts about Santorum's viability both in the primary and the general election. Only 36% of GOP voters think Santorum has a realistic chance at the nomination to 54% who believe he does not. And when it comes to matching up against Barack Obama in the fall only 24% of Republicans think Santorum would provide their best chance for a victory while 49% think that designation belongs to Romney.


But to answer my own question, nah. Rasmussen's latest still gives Santorum an edge on his own turf -- plus, even as the math grows more impossible by the day, Santorum allies huddled in Virginia this morning to chart out a course forward.  Take two on a Santorum-Newt alliance?
 

"BREAKING NEWS: Santo meeting in Virginia now w conservative leaders," Time's Mark Halperin tweeted. "Talk re the path forward, Santo-Newt unity effort to stop Romney." Translation: Santorum meeting in Virginia now with conservative leaders. They are talking about the path forward, a Santorum-Newt unity effort to stop Romney. Halperin added that a "Santor[um] source, responding to speculation: 'He is NOT dropping out before Pennsylvania.' [Meeting is about the] best way to proceed, not whether to."


Indefatigable political scribe Robert Costa says he hears this rumor is more aspirational thinking than anything else, but that a significant Santorum overhaul is unquestionably being discussed.  The candidate, meanwhile, is taking a few days to get away from it all.  Recharging the batteries before a furious "second half" press, or starting to mail it in?
 

Rick Santorum has vowed to continue the fight against Mitt Romney, but a note from his team Wednesday announced that he will do so after taking a four-day break from the GOP presidential campaign trail. "The Santorum for President campaign will be taking a brief break from the campaign trail so that the team has an opportunity to return to their homes and spend time with family and friends," said a statement on Santorum's website. "The Santorum family wishes everyone a safe and blessed holiday weekend." The candidate was expected to hit the trail again Monday.


Regardless of what happens on April 24 (the date of five more GOP primaries), the political inertia and delegate count will remain unforgiving for the former Senator.  Indeed, Santorum could sweep every single delegate over the next eight primaries -- stretching from now through mid-May -- and still trail Romney.  And that's not going to happen.  Case in point, Romney holds a 33 point lead in the delegate gold mine of New York, according to a brand new Empire State poll.  As the general election reality begins to set in, expect to see more pieces like this house editorial from the Washington Examiner:

Romney is far from the perfect candidate. Conservatives are rightly apprehensive about his record. But much like the Republican Party as a whole, Romney has evolved in a more conservative direction. Remember: President Bush's 2001 No Child Left Behind law -- an attempted federal takeover of education -- passed with strong Republican support. In today's Republican Congress, it would not even get out of committee. Conservatives should celebrate such progress. Santorum (who voted for No Child Left Behind, by the way) has fought hard to establish his last-not-Romney-standing status in this election. He has earned the right to continue building his post-election brand in much the same way Mike Huckabee did in 2008, even if that involves staying in the race longer. He will remain relevant in conservative politics -- maybe he will even get his own television show and book deal. But Santorum will not be the nominee this year. It's time for him to admit this to himself, put the knives away, and proceed accordingly.


If -- if -- Santorum loses his home state, yet continues to doggedly trudge ahead, future columns calling on him to reasess his options will proliferate. And many won't be quite as charitable as the Examiner's friendly nudge.

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Guy Benson

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

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography