What’s next in the GOP primary: Why can’t Romney pull away? What’s Santorum thinking?

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The Republican presidential race now moves to Kansas on March 10, Alabama, Hawaii, and Mississippi on March 13, Illinois on March 20 and Louisiana on March 24.

“Based on past races, the only safe ground for Romney might be Illinois (and maybe Hawaii, too),” reports First Read. “Then again, Romney continues to have the ad-spending advantage in all of these states, except for Hawaii and Kansas.”

The first question to consider about what’s coming next is to look back and figure out why can’t Romney pull away from the rest of the field.

“The answer to that question continues to come down to ideology. According to the exit polls in Ohio, Santorum easily won among very conservatives (48%-30%) and overall conservatives (41%-35%), while Romney won the other ideological subgroups (somewhat conservatives, moderates/liberals). Santorum won Tea Party supporters (39%-36%), while Romney won Tea Party detractors (45%-30%). And Santorum ran up the score with evangelicals (47%-30%). Given that kind of very conservative resistance we’ve seen in other contests — Iowa, South Carolina, Michigan, and Ohio — it’s a tribute to Romney that he remains on track to winning the GOP presidential nomination. But it also explains why he’s unable to pull away from his under-funded and less-organized opposition.”

So what is Santorum thinking?

 “There comes a point in a presidential campaign — and in the lore, it’s always 3 a.m. when this happens — where the candidate finds himself staring at the ceiling, ” writes John Ellis, “contemplating financial ruin. Rick Santorum has arrived at his 3 a.m. moment and now must decide what to do next.”

“He isn’t going to win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. That required a knockout blow last week, which he failed to deliver in Michigan, or this week, which he failed to deliver in Ohio. It doesn’t matter how agonizingly close he came in both states. He didn’t get it done.”

But David Meadvin counters: “There will be no 3 a.m. contemplation of financial ruin for Rick Santorum.  If anything is keeping the former Pennsylvania Senator up at nights these days, it’s the giddy expectation of multi-million dollar television contracts and speaking tours once his improbable bid for the Republican nomination finally ends.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.