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With Santorum Out, It's Now a Race Between the "Least Bad"

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Perhaps the most surprising thing about Rick Santorum dropping out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, is that he was realistic enough to quit.

Up to that 13 minute announcement that caught everyone by surprise. Santorum, like Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, was vowing to fight on.

His three-year-old daughter Bella, who is periodically hospitalized with a rare genetic disease called Trisomy 18 (also known as Edwards Syndrome), is cited as a reason for quitting and "being with his family."

Trisomy 18 means the child has three rather than two of chromosome 18. Symptoms are ghastly: small head, water on the brain, heart, muscular kidney and breathing problems, and a myriad of other defects. It's usually in a female child, and usually fatal before birth.

Apparently only eight per cent of live births live beyond the first year, one per cent make it to 5-10 years. The prognosis for little Bella is not encouraging.

So his daughter's sad condition was very likely why Santorum quit when he did, but it doesn't explain why he entered the race in the first place.

He must have known that her chances for a normal life were non-existent.

Quitting also saves Santorum from being humiliated in his home state of Pennsylvania, where he was a senator until defeated in 2006. His onetime lead in the polls have dwindled due to Mitt Romney's lavish advertising there, and his popularity in Texas has also spiraled downward thanks to Romney's seemingly bottomless campaign funding.

So winning 11 states will be Santorum's high-water mark, and will be a credential the next time he runs for significant office.

To some, trouble looms for Romney in re-uniting Republican factions into a juggernaut to take on President Barack Obama. That seems a bit of a stretch, if one thinks about it. Yes, Republicans (and conservatives) specialize in internal feuding, but one thing they can all agree on is that they want Obama out of the White House.

Replacing Obama's gang tends to focus opponents.

Reality is that the 2012 presidential campaign is going to pit two candidates against each other, both of whom have higher disapproval ratings among the public than they have favourable ones.

Polling by RealClearPolitics.com shows Obama's unfavourable rating at 43 per cent, Romney's at 47 per cent. All of which means little seven months before the vote.

Newt Gingrich, who now bills himself as "the last remaining conservative" in the race, apparently is launching a fundraising drive to keep his bid going. Silly ass.

Gingrich appealing for funding is somewhat mindful of George Zimmerman, slayer of that unarmed black kid in Florida, Trayvon Martin, setting up websites so people can contribute to his defense fund. Fat chance.

Something is wrong with anyone who'd contribute to either.

With Santorum gone, the real campaign for president can begin. Up to now, Romney has tried to juggle his opposition to Obama's policies (or lack of same) with fending off criticisms from GOP rivals that he's not a true conservative, or likely to beat Obama.

Going after Obama should be easier. Obama has no record to run on -- except Obamacare, unemployment, extortionist gasoline prices, and a demoralized citizenry struggling to restore optimism.

Romney, as a Washington outsider who does not feed at the public trough, has a record of achievement and competence that Obama lacks. Whether he can persuade American voters that their collective future will be better with him as prez, remains to be seen.

This is one election where change seems better than more of the same -- unlike Canada, where more of the same bodes better than the sort of change Liberals and the NDP are proposing.