He’d been one of the four main contenders in the race — along with rivals Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul — and the primary season had been an internal struggle for months, with Romney ahead but without a clear and convincing lead.
Santorum’s decision to put his campaign “on hold” changes that. The other trailing candidates, Gingrich and Paul, are far back enough that Romney shouldn’t have any trouble picking up the nomination.
For the LGBT community, none of the leading candidates are fully supportive of LGBT rights. Probably the most supportive, Romney, has been slowly backing away from his support and will likely pick up the backing of the anti-gay-marriage group National Organization for Marriage.
For Democrats and supporters of President Obama, it would likely have been a boon if Santorum had won the Republican nomination, galvanizing more support than Obama had in 2008.
Considering how conservative Santorum is, his nomination would have brought every center, left and progressive into Obama’s camp, regardless of whether they felt the president has done a good job to date or not. And they would have done more than just vote for Obama — they would have been highly motivated to organize, fundraise and bring in new voters — anything to prevent a Santorum presidency.
But with Romney as the likely Republican candidate, Democrats are going to have a harder time galvanizing support — Romney hasn’t said and done as many hateful things to LGBTs and women as Santorum has, so he doesn’t have as many critics and opponents who’d stop at nothing to block him from winning the presidency.
Romney might have pissed off and lost some independent voters, but mostly he comes across as an out-of-touch rich white guy; Santorum, on the other hand, comes off as a crazy social conservative.
Certainly, the LGBT community should be glad Santorum is out of the race. But that doesn’t mean that progressive and liberal voters should be complacent about Romney’s candidacy.
Romney’s political action committee, Free and Strong America, donated $10,000 in 2008 to NOM for support of Proposition 8 in California. Last year, he signed NOM’s anti-gay-marriage pledge, which includes the creation of a presidential commission to investigate allegations of harassment against marriage-equality foes.
At various times, Romney has both opposed (2002, 2005) and backed (2003) civil unions, and opposed (2006) and supported (1994) the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
While Santorum’s departure from the race (wasn’t it inevitable?) is heartening, supporters of LGBT rights still need to be aware of Romney’s positions — and know that he hasn’t been an ally.