Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum addresses supporters during a primary night campaign rally April 3, 2012 at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Mars, Pennsylvania.
Credits: AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards
WASHINGTON - Mitt Romney is popping the champagne and chugging it out of the GOP trophy.
But hold on just a minute, according to Rick Santorum. The almost also-ran says it's only "half time" in the Republican nomination race.
Romney's wins Tuesday in Wisconsin, Maryland and D.C. effectively ended the bitterly contested battle to be the party's standard bearer in November, and Romney has already pivoted to the general election campaign against President Barack Obama.
On Wednesday, he gave a scathing speech to a group of news editors here blasting what he called Obama's failed economic policies and presidency.
It was the same group Obama addressed a day earlier, when he accused Romney of supporting a budget that would cripple social services for seniors and the poor.
But while Obama and Romney are in full general election campaign mode, having both seemingly moved on from the Republican primary, Santorum has vowed to stay in the race at least until April 24, when conservatives in his home state of Pennsylvania head to the polls.
On Tuesday, he lashed out at his party's establishment and "aristocracy" who are calling for him to bow out, and accused them of trying to cram a moderate - Romney - down the throats of Republicans.
"This is half time. There are no marching bands. We're hitting the field," he said Tuesday night in Pennsylvania. "Who's ready to charge out of the dressing room for a strong second half?" he added. "The clock starts tonight."
The problem is (and keeping with the sports analogy) the fans have all gone home and they've already dimmed the stadium lights. The clock may well have started Tuesday, but many pundits and Republicans agree it's for the general election and a whole new game between Romney and Obama.