Alex Pareene gets carried away:

Now Rick Santorum is the 2016 GOP nomination frontrunner.

This is an understandable mistake to make, but it’s still wrong. It is almost always the case that the runner-up in Republican nominating contests is considered the front-runner in the next cycle, but there are two clear exceptions to this pattern that give us one reason why Santorum will not be the 2016 front-runner. Santorum is more acceptable to party leaders than Pat Buchanan was, but he is still not going to be accepted as the front-runner for the nomination next time. If Romney loses the general election, the desperation to win the next presidential election will be so great that there will be no enthusiasm for risking another election on someone as provocative as Santorum. Contrary to the conventional assumption that Republicans will react to a Romney loss by rallying around a 2016 candidate perceived to be much more conservative, eight years of Obama will make the party more accepting of candidates that they would have previously rejected. Bush’s relatively easy nomination victory in 2000 can’t be fully understood without remembering how desperate Republicans were to put an end to the Clinton era.

Another reason why Santorum won’t be the front-runner next time can be found in the similarities between the Santorum and Huckabee campaigns. They have many things in the common, including economic pseudo-populism, strong support from socially conservative evangelicals, and distaste for anything resembling libertarianism. One other important similarity is that neither of them has had much success raising money from large donors. For the most part, wealthy Republican donors aren’t interested in the domestic agenda Huckabee and Santorum promote, and Santorum has made enough blunders, real and perceived, that there aren’t going to be many interested in backing him in the future. Santorum’s success in this cycle will be written off as a fluke produced by dissatisfaction with Romney. Finally, all of the fantasy candidates promoted in 2012 that stayed out of the race this time will be much more interested in running in an open election. Santorum will most likely be brushed aside in the rush to support whichever 2012 fantasy candidates choose to run.

Update: Dan McCarthy makes similar observations on the main blog.

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