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Commentary: Santorum has long way to go, despite wins

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It has all been practice leading up to this, kids.

While the race for the Republican nomination had careened through 13 states and left several political casualties in its wake in the past weeks, eyes began turning toward Super Tuesday — and especially Ohio — to sort through the mayhem.

Ohio, known for a political atmosphere that is as fickle as its weather, is often revered as a forecast of how well candidates will fare in a national election. Though nine other states threw their two cents in, he who wins the Buckeye State sends an unmistakable message to his opponents that he must be taken seriously.

But what does a win really look like?

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came out on top with 38 percent of the votes and edged out  former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum by just 1 percent, but a victory is measured in much more than the number of votes.

Sure Romney can add Ohio to his victory column — along with Virginia, Vermont, Idaho and his home state of Massachusetts — but with Santorum coming in at a cringingly close second in Ohio and his victories in North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee, Romney’s victory is one only in a technical sense.

The real victor has to be Santorum. He has seen a meteoric rise to fame fueled by his fiercely conservative ideological viewpoints, which he has used to take national focus away from the economy — Romney’s comfort zone. Victories in the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses kept Santorum’s campaign vital while he wooed Republicans in search of a stark contrast to Obama’s liberal standpoint, but his strong showing in Ohio might be what will mark him as a cut above candidates who previously challenged Romney for the nod.

That said, Santorum undeniably has a long row to hoe if he expects to go toe-to-toe with the juggernaut that is the Romney campaign. Santorum himself claimed that Romney and Super-PACs that support the former governor outspent the Santorum campaign and supporting Super-PACs 12-to-1, according to CBSNews. Though the actual figures will likely be different, Santorum is definitely sitting on the short stack when compared with Romney dollar-for-dollar.

So while his performance on Super Tuesday will undoubtedly cement him as a contender for the nomination which will, in turn, translate into better donations for the ragtag campaign, Santorum still has much work to do if he intends to outpace Romney’s superior bank account. The former senator might have lasted a few innings in the Big Leagues, but if he wants to take this one home he better start looking for a grand slam.

The one thing that does seem likely in this wildly unpredictable race: Romney and Santorum might want to trade their running shoes in for flip-flops, because this one is heading into summer.

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