GOP circus won’t stop here

Show’s over folks. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Rick Santorum’s announcement that he is quitting, formally known as suspending his presidential campaign, ends what little suspense was left in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, will still be on the South Dakota ballot, however.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the early favorite, had the most money, the support of GOP insiders and won the most delegates in primaries and caucuses. Santorum finally yielded to the math and ended his campaign Tuesday.

This means that 2012 won’t be like 2008, when the presidential circus made an extended stop in South Dakota. Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both made several stops in SD, telling us how concernced they were about crop prices, Indian issues, rural sustainability and anything and everything else they could think of to win a few votes.

It appears there will be few or no campaign events and stops in our state now.

Romney, who was endorsed by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., still may breeze through before the June 5 vote. Rep. Ron Paul, of Texas, said he’s in the race through the convention, so he may make an appearance. Who knows what’s up with former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who admitted this weekend Romney was close to wrapping it up.

SD political junkies, writers and politicians hoped against hope we would see a repeat of four years ago, but it didn’t happen. Should we stick with a late primary or shift to an early one, despite the cost, in an effort to have a say in the presidential process?

Will it be Newt after all?

In the end, can Newt actually win this? Yeah, maybe so, in this bizarro Republican contest.

It’s his turn at the top, but that has been a slippery place to be in the past six months. Michelle Bachmann rose and fell. Rick Perry had a second or two in the lead before he plummeted. Herman Cain was at the forefront for a few days.

Then, Mitt Romney was, once again, deemed inevitable. Now, maybe not, maybe not at all, as the Republican Party picks its nominee to take on President Obama.

Newt Gingrich has been written off more times than a business lunch, but he pops up again, cocky, combative and capable of getting tons of free media. His big win in the South Carolina primary was based on touting conservative views, bashing the media and dominating the debates.

While Romney has the money, the organization and the pure personal life, he is awkward on stage, has handled the questions about his income and taxes horribly — and he is a Mormon. To a lot of the Christian conservatives who dominate much of the GOP selection process, that is the gravest sin.

Rick Santorum (be careful when you Google him) won, or at least tied Romney, at the Iowa caucus, although the media proclaimed Romney the winner for two weeks while votes were still being counted and collected.

Mitt won the New Hampshire primary, as was expected, and for a time he was 2-0 and leading in South Carolina. But that is so last Wednesday.

Santorum was a distant third in South Carolina, but he’s hoping Gingrich self-destructs and he is the most viable conservative standing.

Ron Paul, the aged, cranky Texas libertarian, has a small but dedicated following. He has said he doesn’t expect to be the nominee, then changed his tune and said, sure, I can win. But probably not.

If Newt can somehow get Santorum to join him, to earn those conservative followers, perhaps he does somehow earn the GOP nomination. My head still says Mitt is still the man most likely, but I think the GOP heart and gut says Newt is their true love, despite his past failings.

If this battle continues long enough, perhaps South Dakota’s primary on June 5 will become a factor. Maybe the circus will come to town once again, as it did for the Democrats in 2008.

And maybe, just maybe, for the first time since 1952, the Republican convention will mean something other than a coronation. Perhaps another candidate will emerge and the fabled “brokered convention” will return from the dim days of long-past history. Did someone mention Jeb Bush?