Santorum Insufferable Even in Conceding Defeat

Some politicians just cannot admit defeat with grace, always looking to exploit an angle, gain some type of leverage, build the foundation of something bigger and better in the future. Instead of bowing out of the GOP presidential race gracefully this week, Santorum gave a self-aggrandizing messianic "I will return" speech.

COMMENTARY | You'd like to think of former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum as a sympathetic political character in an epic human drama, overcoming tremendous odds -- a true underdog story. You'd like to but he makes it far too difficult to think of him as anything other than a arrogant self-promoter. Case in point: His recent speech in Gettysburg announcing his suspension of his presidential campaign, attempting to make himself look singular and messianic

"This race was as improbable as any race you'll ever see for president," he said about his run, as noted by Washington Post.

Really? And how is that? Another life-long politician with delusions of grandeur falls behind and drops out of the GOP contest is improbable? How so?

Here's improbable: A Vietnam War veteran who spent six years in a North Vietnamese prison camp runs a near bankrupt campaign, starts winning primaries and becomes the GOP nominee for president. That improbable event occurred just three-and-a-half years ago.

Here's another: A constitutional law professor from Chicago with only two years of federal legislative experience runs a campaign that began primarily on the back of online donations. Going up against the most extensive political machine in the nation, the campaign headed by then New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, the junior senator from Illinois gained momentum and finally became the Democratic Party nominee for president. That also occurred three-and-a-half years ago. (For that matter, given the history of male-dominated politics in the U. S., that a female had gained such prominence as to nearly become a political party's nominee could also be considered a testament to improbability.)

Those improbable stories became the foundation of the 2008 Presidential Election between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama, where the American people elected its first black president, something some would also consider an improbable story for very different reasons.

In his speech, Santorum said that they were told numerous times that they could not win, to drop out, that he couldn't win. He said that he was "winning in a different way."

Although it is true that Santorum had won 11 states by the time he suspended his campaign, he wasn't winning -- no matter how one defines "different way." Even in the contests he did win, there were no overwhelming victories, forcing him to take only a slim majority of delegates from each. But he couldn't gain momentum and would see a loss shortly after his victories. The last came with a trio of defeats in Wisconsin, Maryland, and Washington, D. C.

And one might give Santorum points for mounting such a valiant effort, traveling to county after county throughout the U. S. to get his message out, but then one also remembers the gaffes, the overly religious sanctimoniousness, and a couple of borderline racist remarks made along the way.

But it is in his personal struggle, where one finds a sympathetic bond due to a familial obligation, a bond found because of a family hardship. The hospitalization of Santorum's daughter, Bella, definitely wins the understanding of the public. Family should always take precedent over vocation and political affairs.

Still, Santorum's quasi-concession speech was little more than an effort to aggrandize his achievements in the campaign, to continue nurturing the seed of running for office again in 2016, something he has alluded to before (not to mention comparing his campaign to Ronald Reagan's 1976 failed campaign for the GOP nomination).

His presidential run improbable? Hardly. His story -- with altered details -- has been told often enough before -- and often better. Facing adversity and conquering the various pitfalls in life make a great backstory for a campaign. And although there were unique elements to Santorum's nomination run, it just doesn't quite get to the level of improbable.

Were his exaggerated remarks insufferable? Absolutely.

(photo credit: William S. Saturn, Creative Commons)