Rick Santorum had a "good day" on February 7, 2012. He won three non-binding "primaries" in two caucus states, Minnesota and Colorado, and what is described as a "beauty contest" in Missouri. While he got close to 140,000 votes in the latter, his vote totals in the former were 22,000 and 27,000, primarily those of the far right-wing types of voters who show up in these types of events. Not big numbers in those first two. Nevertheless, he does not have much money and his chances of raising much more are limited. This despite the presence of his biggest supposedly unconnected "Super PAC" guy, Foster Friess (1). Among other things, Friess is a member of the far-right, highly secretive and highly dangerous Council for National Policy, whose membership ranges from the Koch Brothers to Grover Norquist to Phyllis Schlafley. The "unconnected" Friess just happened to be at Santorum's right shoulder when he gave his victory speech on the evening that primary Day. (Needless to say, Santorum's fund-raising prospects may go up after his "bring back the absolute Monarchy" and "government-cannot-prevent-employment-discrimination-but-can-criminalize-your-relgious/secular-beliefs-as-to-when-life-begins" speeches at Conservative Political Action Committee meeting.) Further, Santorum is known for having a "poor ground game." That is he doesn't have much of the nuts-and-bolts political organization that is needed for doing the grunt work that underlays any candidate's electoral success.
even though he wowed them at C-PAC, what is Santorum still doing in the race
when Romney is the clear front-runner and likely has the nomination sewed up,
even though it will be a long slog until he has garnered the required number of
delegates? As unappetizing as Romney is to the hard right/GOP voting base, he
does have A) lots of money, B) a very good ground game, and C) an increasing
number of endorsers among the "GOP Establishment" and prominent
non-establishment GOP hucksters like Donald Trump. Just look what happened to
the other competitors, with the exception of Huntsman and Pawlenty (remember
him?) all to the right of Romney. (Some "to the right," when Romney is for
everything from ultimately destroying Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid to
criminalizing abortion to repealing the Affordable Care Act which, among other
things would eventually provide health insurance coverage for about 30,000,000
currently uninsured US citizens. But this is the Republican Party of the
Rightward Imperative  we are talking about.) And so, by hanging on it is
becoming increasingly clear that that is what Senator Santorum's true goal in
the 2012 primary season is.
Let's consider the other hard rightists. Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann each had their few weeks in the spot light, but when their votes dwindled down to single figures, they left the race. However, unlike Santorum, or possibly not having the foresight of him and his backers, they really wanted the nomination this time around, and when they saw that they wouldn't be getting it, they left the pitch. Herman Cain, on the trail primarily to sell books and himself for speaking engagements, had his few weeks too. But made a complete fool of himself, and not just with the record of having sexual assault charges paid off by the other NRA, the National Restaurant Association. "9-9-9" would take him to a Presidential Fantasy, not a Reality, show.
Gingrich is still there. With a racism-driven campaign he will pick up some more delegates from the Southern states voting on "Super Tuesday." But given the dismal state of his ground game (he is not even on the ballot in all of the GOP primaries, like Virginia which might have given him a lift), and his limited funds, it is becoming clear that his real goals, similar to those of Cain, are to increase the number of future speaking invitations he can get, increase the fees that he gets for them, sell more books, and self-stroke his massive ego. Of course, Ron Paul, who is a hard rightist on every major issue other than foreign policy (something that leftists who are attracted to him tend to ignore or forget), is still there. But he has enough money to travel around, his ego needs are being met, he is having fun, and he is paving the way for his completely hard-rightist son to have a go in 2016.
And so. Here is Santorum, with his chances of winning the nomination this time around being virtually nil. This despite his totally contradictory, but wildly popular with his base, Republican Religious Rightist positions on separation of church and state that would on the one hand allow the Catholic Church to practice employment discrimination while on the other would criminalize all religious/secular beliefs as to when life begins, other than at the time of conception.
However, given the improving economy and Obama's occasional bows in the direction of liberalism, Romney's chances of winning the general election are slipping away virtually every time he opens his mouth to do something else other than sing "America the Beautiful." (On that matter, one must note that Republicans who might like his politics but who can carry a tune will cringe every time he rambles off-pitch during his renditions, which he does on a regular basis). But Santorum is getting his media-driven star turn just like the other failed Far Rightist GOP candidates.
And so, given Obama's increasing chances of winning a second term unless Rove's voter-suppression/cheating machine goes into high gear, what is Santorum really doing, still hanging on? He is very nicely setting himself up to be the front runner for the GOP for 2016. Assuming that the election is between Romney and Obama, Santorum would be anointed as such the day after the 2012 results are in. A) he would fall into the modern GOP's "it's his turn" tradition: Nixon, Reagan, Dole, McCain. And B) he is, presently at least about as hard right as one can get.
Consider. He would (3): A) bomb Iran, B) cut Social Security payments, now, C) criminalize abortion even in cases of rape and incest, D) drastically reduce corporate and personal taxation for the wealthy, E) at the state level ban artificial birth control of any kind and gay marriage, and criminalize certain private sexual acts. He holds that global warming theory is actually a myth and that the number one task of the Executive and Legislative branches is to vastly reduce or eliminate virtually all Federal spending on functions other than the military, prisons, the "drug war," and such. He is also a massive "deregulator" and "drill-baby-driller." As mentioned above, he is a fan of absolute Monarchy, as he told us (or told those who were really listening) at Conservative Political Action Committee meeting). And so-on-and-so-forth. As of the present time, there is no issue on which someone could squeeze into the Right of Santorum. Of course, knowing the GOP, that may very well change by 2016. But as of now, it is becoming increasingly clear that Santorum and his supporters are focused on positioning him as the front runner for 2016, and as far to the Right as he can possibly get in that position. Given the increasingly Far (Far) Right nature of the GOP primaries electorate, that is exactly where he would want to be.
1. "Meet Foster Friess: Billionaire who Bought Iowa for Santorum," http://www.opednews.com/articles/Meet-Foster-Friess-Billio-by-Daily-kos-120108-960.html
2. "The Imperative of the Republicans' Rightward Imperative," URL: http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/13269
3. Some, but interestingly enough not all, of these positions can be found at: http://www.ricksantorum.com/issues . The others have been picked up from campaign speeches and interviews.