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. nena

    It's so sad to see the caliber of candidates the republicans have running for POTUS. It's even sadder to think that someone as naive, close minded and arrogant as Mitt R. could be the next POTUS. Actually it's a scarry thought. What will they do to our country. Middle class and lower class folks are going to suffer like never before and they'll be stuck in a situation where it will be hard for them to move upward. Folks, things are getting better, slowly but the economy is improving. We need to really think this election carefully. We need to keep President Obama in office so that he can continue to build a stronger economy, stronger relations with the world and most importantly lead the middle class to a better tomorrow.


    April 4, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  2. Name

    U just have to follow Ron Paul. A true leader ...
    I wish America would give him a chance

    April 4, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  3. FrankinSD

    Santorum is only irrelevant if all you are concerned about is who will be nominated in 2012. Republican insiders are already looking ahead to 2016, knowing what Democrats are not willing to admit – that Mitt Romney cannot beat President Obama. In that context, Santorum might be VERY relevant. When Romney losses, there will be a segment of the GOP who will insist its because the party failed to nominate a true conservative. Santorum will be their poster boy, not to mention the next guy in line.

    April 4, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  4. bcm

    Hopefully McCain is finally right about something. Santorum is a religious nut and very scary. Romney isn't much better and I can't wait for him to attempt to debate Obama. Obama will chew him up on a debate.

    April 4, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  5. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    McCain: Santorum's 'irrelevant'
    First thing I have agreed with McCain on in a long time.

    April 4, 2012 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  6. Famous

    Even with Obama's dismal approval rating, new polls show that he still leads a Romney candidate in the GE by as much as 10%....and Obama hasn't even spun the first number on the combination lock to the biggest campaign war chest in political history.

    This theater moment is over before it started.

    April 4, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  7. Paul JT

    Terrible concept, but thought it was the people that decide. If Santorum wants to contest his home state he should. Only the candidate can suspend his campaign. This from a Newt supporter.

    April 4, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  8. Jim Hahn

    The challenge for Democrats is getting the vote out. Older conservative voters vote without fail whereas the Democrats tend to vote only if its convenient. However, the number of tuition hikes this year, etc. should increase the percentage. Also, the fact that the Republican-led Congress has done essentially nothing in the past two years except obstruct progress. Obama is going to make sure that they are the albatross around Romney's neck. Something he can ponder while figuring out which Cadillac to drive or which people he wants to fire today.

    April 4, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  9. Tom Joad

    Isn't it precious when Republicans accuse each other of being Republican? The whole party is irrelevant to 99% of the country.

    April 4, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  10. brad-ash

    If there is one thing McCain should know about, its irrelevancy.

    April 4, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  11. Oh Really?

    I rarely agree with McCain, but this time he's absolutely right. Santorum is no longer relevant. The only way he could win now is if Mitt just gave up and quit. Sadly, his own ego and ignorance are blinding him to the truth. He is simply not a viable candidate for the Republican party. In the unlikely event that he actually won the nomination, Americans who are moderate (the vast majority of us) would kick him to the curb like a stray dog. Let's hope that when Santorum loses his home state to Romney, he'll finally realize he simply cannot win. Good luck, Rick. Pound your bible in your own home and your own church. That's your right. Don't try to pound it on the national stage. No one except extreme rightists are listening.

    April 4, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  12. manhandler1

    "Time to make up" ain't gonna happen, John. He has about 200 years to make up and only 10 months to do it. Besides. when the focus is completely on him, he's only gonna dig himself in deeper. He's so awkward, nobody can relate to him and his "more tax cuts for the rich" ain't gonna fly.

    April 4, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  13. Whatever?1

    This from the guy that unleashed Sarah Palin on the world.......not a word he says can be trusted!

    April 4, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    "Isn't it precious when Republicans accuse each other of being Republican? The whole party is irrelevant to 99% of the country."

    I wouldn't go that far. They certainly ARE relevant. Sort of in the same way that what was in the koolaid was relevant in Jonestown.

    April 4, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  15. Orwell predicts

    Santorum irrelevant
    Romney irrelevant
    Newt irrelevant
    Palin irrelevant
    GOP irrelevant

    April 4, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  16. Hey, hey, hey

    Fed Up, the government that the Founding Fathers created is complicated. Congress was given authority to tax and spend for general welfare of the people, states were given general lawmaking authority, and the citizens were given considerable freedoms that cannot be abridged by the states or federal government. Right-wing courts have given states too much power, and liberal courts have given the federal government too much power. Power belongs to the people!!!

    April 4, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  17. Ferathka

    This whole line of Teapubs who ran for President are irrelevant. Mr. Etch a Sketch will only get the nomination because all his sugar daddies allowed him to outspend everyone else my astronomical amounts. He is a horrible candidate and will be eaten alive by Obama in the general election. Too bad really...I was enjoying the comedy show of the past few months.

    April 4, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  18. sene

    give some thought to the VP nominee he says? He goes for marco rubio ... ONLY for political again! Only a ploy to capture some of the Hispanic vote. What thoughtful thinking!

    April 4, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  19. Saboth

    Pshaw. Romney doesn't have to mend his bruised character. Just shake him up and down. This week, he's...FOR illegal immigration...he's FOR women's rights....he's FOR Obamacare....he's AGAINST zombies but FOR 50% tax breaks for corporations making over 2 billion in profits, and IS gay marriage. Sorry, I was just having fun with "Romney's Political Positions" mad libs.

    April 4, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  20. LMC

    I notice that Sen. McCain warned Romney "not to rush to judgment" in choosing a running mate. Just like McCain "rushed to judgement" in choosing Sarah Palin, which I'm sure he forever regrets!

    April 4, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  21. Pander Bear

    Listen to him Rick. This guy knows all about irrelevant!

    April 4, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  22. ClydeTheSlyde

    If any man knows the meaning of "irrelevant", it's John McCain!

    April 4, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  23. Mark

    The important question to me is would that person make a good
    President. McCain's choice cost him the election for just that
    reason. You don't want a pencil-pusher from Star Fleet Command
    freezing at the Com when Captain Kirk is down in Sick Bay.

    April 4, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  24. diridi

    does any one cares this old coot? Mitt and Santorum both are irrelevant....true. This nation can not afford another Bush, Mittens, and stone age idiot santorum...Mitt is Bain-Capital the worst for America. Educated only know this.

    April 4, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  25. REALLY?

    Ahhhhh, the bi-partisan bile is in full swing! The Mitt hates children consortium is now in session. GOP is scaaaaaary! Lol. Keep eating up what the liberal media is feeding you, while we get American back on track. The Obama experiment has failed! Time to hire someone with EXPERIENCE and a track record of success! Obama had neither and it showed.

    April 4, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
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