April 4th, 2012
09:04 AM ET
10 years ago

McCain: Santorum's 'irrelevant'

(CNN) – The status of Rick Santorum's presidential bid is "irrelevant" following Tuesday's elections, Mitt Romney backer Sen. John McCain said on Wednesday.

The 2008 Republican presidential nominee said Romney must now pivot to the general election and focus on restoring his image, bruised by the GOP primary fight.

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"Whether Rick Santorum stays in or not, is now basically irrelevant and Mitt has a lot of ground to make up," McCain said on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien." "I'm confident he can make it up, but every day that goes by that he's not in the general campaign is a day lost."

The senior Arizona senator said Romney's unfavorable ratings are high due to the bitterest primary battle he has observed. McCain said Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, pivoted affectively toward President Barack Obama Tuesday night following victories in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C., something he must continue to do given Santorum's bleak delegate outlook.

Santorum vowed once again on Tuesday night to remain in the nomination fight, despite a trailing delegate count and falling national and state wide poll numbers. Romney currently has 648 delegates, well ahead of Santorum's 264, according to a CNN estimate. Romney must win 44% of the remaining delegates to reach 1,144 delegates necessary to clinch the nomination. Santorum needs to win 79% of the remaining delegates to do the same.

Assuming Romney becomes the nominee, McCain urged him "not to rush to judgment" when picking his running mate. He predicted a difficult decision for Romney given the potential picks, who he said included Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie,  Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

McCain specifically touted the virtues of nominating Rubio for the No. 2 spot.

"I think obviously Marco Rubio would be one of the prime contenders for a whole variety of reasons, including by the way he's been a very impressive senator during the time he's been in the Senate," McCain said of the freshman tea party favorite.

Also see:

Santorum on losses: 'It's halftime'

Romney pounces on Obama's budget remarks

Gingrich not pleased after shout out from Obama

Filed under: 2012 • John McCain • Mitt Romney • Rick Santorum
soundoff (259 Responses)
  1. Ed1

    They might have 600,000 voters but only 4,000 voted how many voted for Obama.

    April 4, 2012 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  2. Randy, San Francisco

    Wrong! Santorum's goal is an open convention where anything can happen. Newt has become irrelevant because he has become too soft on Romney. Santorum has to step up the negative ads and personal attacks to stay in the game.

    April 4, 2012 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  3. FedUp

    Sorry, Mr. McCain. You became irrelevant last election. Romney will never get my vote, regardless of his nominee status. I believe they said Reagan was irrelevant too. Remember him?

    April 4, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Ed1 observed:

    They might have 600,000 voters but only 4,000 voted how many voted for Obama.
    They who? There were almost 1,000,000 signatures on the Scott Walker recall petition. I can almost guarantee you that those voters will vote against Walker in June, and for Obama in November. Romney loses Wisconsin. Period.

    April 4, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  5. Dr Knowitall

    The establishment just can't deal with the fact that they have lost so much influence and control over the course of the last 4 years. Its is so sad that they don't like to see our system at work. Very un-American and very un-sportsman like.

    April 4, 2012 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  6. The Real Tom Paine

    The GOP "establishment" has become irrelevant, since the money for campaigns is being generated and spent by groups outside of their control. What its led to is something uncharacterstic for the GOP, which is a free-for-all. The vaunted GOP discipline is frayed to the point of breaking , and it shows in the desperation and scorched-earth tactics Santorum, Gingrich and Romney have used on each other. Another very telling sign of how this is taking its toll is the comment by Ann Romney of how tired her husband seems, not to mention the way Santorum went off on the NYT reporter: the strain of this brawl is leaving telltale signs of fatigue on Romney, and Obama is just waiting for the opportunity to picnic on Romney. If Romney is tired now, wait until his 65-year-old self has been beaten up in the general election. He's done.

    April 4, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  7. Matthew

    Romney will never beat Obama. Its sickening. There once was a time when Republican meant Conservatism. We need a new Conservative Party..start it up Santorum!

    April 4, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  8. Matthew

    I pray to God that were still alive in another 4 years to be able to vote for a Conservative like what Santorum brings to the table

    April 4, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  9. hate and lies from the right

    So is the whole republican party especially cantor, ryan, mcconnell, boehner. Irrelevant

    April 4, 2012 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  10. kel from south carolina

    Not only is Rick's campain irrelivant, Rick is and has always been irrelivant. Just ask the voters in Penn.who saw the light and tossed him out like so much needless garbage. Also, don't forget the Preacher Rick is a lawyer and involved in a nursing home. He is nmot the poor common man he tries to portray. Semper Fi

    April 4, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |

    Once Romney has the spotlight all to himself,.. he'll be under a microscope, closely scrutinized on a daily basis,.. that's when he'll implode,.. all his warts revealed, his gaffes will mount, and Obama will mop up the floor with him. The only thing Romney will have going for him, is the lies, deception, misinformation, fed to him by the Minister of Propaganda Karl Rove.

    April 4, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  12. .. Kentucky long-rifleman ........

    Now folks, I can finally find something that Mr. McCain and I agree upon.......SANITARIUM'S IRRELEVANCY !
    But the second point is Mr. McCain's personal horror story of making a choice for running mate – He got the heavily made up and ditzy Sarah Darlin'. Maybe Mr. Romney can now choose, oh say, Annie Darlin' Coulter !

    April 4, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  13. FIELD1stSGT

    iTALIAN NONNO – Aren't you talking about your man, Obama here?

    April 4, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  14. independent

    Im very excited romney will be the nominee. He is a good man of faith and he will beat obama and get us out of this mess. Go romney!

    April 4, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  15. Jason

    I wouldnt say He is irrelevant. he has alot of supporters. Even the one candidate that the media doesnt talk about had over 6,000 people show up at his speech last night in California. Does the front runner get that many people at his speeches? These things can not be overlooked.

    April 4, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  16. Claudia, Phoenix, AZ

    Santorum will remain irrelevant until he understands the only calling he has is to be a pastor of his own church.

    April 4, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  17. Bessy

    The whole Republican Party is " irrelevant ".

    " Assuming Romney becomes the nominee, McCain urged him "not to rush to judgment" when picking his running mate. "
    Is this guy kidding ? He is giving advice on picking a VP choice ! Heaven help anybody if they ever take any advice from this man when it comes to a VP pick.

    April 4, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  18. Ancient Texan

    McCain is wanting Romney, a RINO just like himself to be the nominee. It didn't work in 2008 and I'm afraid it won't this time. The Conservatives will just stay home again on election day.

    April 4, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  19. GI Joe


    They might have 600,000 voters but only 4,000 voted how many voted for Obama.
    Well, since you asked about Washington D.C.;

    In 2008 it was Obama 21,000 to Hillary 10,000. Any Help?

    This year he had no opponent, so it makes no difference.

    April 4, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  20. Jason

    we will see what happens......

    April 4, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  21. Larry

    It's funny how the word irrelevant and John McCain always appear together.

    More useless info from GOP dinosaurs. Expecting another pair of irrelevants known as the-quitta-from wasilla and Donald-combover to add their 2 cwnts any day now.

    April 4, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  22. DJH

    Does anyone care what McCain says or thinks? He's a loser.

    April 4, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  23. Larry L


    "I pray to God that were still alive in another 4 years to be able to vote for a Conservative like what Santorum brings to the table"
    A little too much drama?

    The very reason Santorum can't beat a flip-flopping elitist is because he only appeals to the far right-wing, Bible-thumping bigots of the Tea Party crowd. They don't really represent the main body of the GOP and certainly don't get the support of the fat-cats that actually determine the Republican nominee. Most Republicans would rather vote for a candidate they really can't stand than somebody as crazy as Santorum.

    We all have a better chance of "being alive" by not electing a right-wing Republican "chickenhawk" and working to help President Obama solve America's problems. It seems that dedicating all of your time to obstructionism doesn't produce favorable results or high poll numbers.

    April 4, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  24. UncleM

    @Matthew. Start an ultra conservative religious party with Santorum – please. Disappear to the margins of politics and leave the country to intelligent, rational people.

    April 4, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  25. justaman

    IRRELEVAN T?? Can't that idiot or anyone else for that matter see that with Romney, the GOP is simply easing further to the center, which is farther from the right, and closer to the left. Give it 2 or 3 more cycles and you won't be able to tell the difference other than this: The Dems will (still) be wanting to give the have-nots TOO much, and the Repubs will (still) be wanting to give them nothing at all – to further line the rich man's pockets, and claiming it's to boost the economy, jobs, etc....
    How sad for us all!

    April 4, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
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