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. Doug Ericson

    McCain is an annoying war monger.

    April 4, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    What can I say...McPampers gets cranky when he's sundowning.

    April 4, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  3. beevee

    So sayeth the wiseman of GOP, but who cares. If Santorum wants to keep fighting until the convention he should, by all means do so. Of course the panderer-in-chief Romeny will get the nomination in the end but WH may be out of reach in 2012.

    April 4, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  4. retief1954

    That's a good one – McCain urging Romney not to "rush to judgment" when picking a running mate for VP. Ya THINK? Look Senator, this isn't a PR operation where Roms can now "restore his image". We've already seen, through this primary, what Roms stands for. Whatever image-burnishing he tries from here forward will be seen as more shape-shifting to try and please whatever crowd he's speaking to that day. It's just more inauthentic spew from the candidate who can't convince ANYONE of what he really believes and where he really stands (other than the hackneyed "anyone but Obama" that the Repubs try to get over with).

    April 4, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  5. zoonib

    There is nothing stopping Romney from campaigning against Obama at this point, so as par usual McCain is wrong. McCain like most GOP are owned by corporations so they do not want a brokered convention. They want the corporate owned Romney to win.

    April 4, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  6. Wake up people

    Just as irrelevant as you and wailin Palin were in 2008, McCain.

    OBAMA 2012!

    April 4, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  7. Olaf Big

    Santorum is certainly not irrelevant to the Republican politics, but he IS irrelevant to the presidential elections this year. There is no way he can get a nomination with the current numbers, and even if he could that would be a disaster for the Republicans. Santorum is running for the votes of the republican base, but the votes that decide the general elections don't come from the far right or liberal left. They come from swing voters in the middle of the political spectrum. There is no way Santorum with his medieval social views and anti-education stance can get those votes.

    April 4, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  8. Lenny Pincus

    A Santorum robocall from Wisconsin: When you vote tomorrow, vote for social sanity and Rick Santorum, not homosexuality and Mitt Romney. Rick Santorum is the only candidate who can be trusted to uphold traditional marriage, a straight military, and the rights of American children to have both a mother and a father.

    April 4, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  9. Carrie

    I'm no Republican, but last time I checked, the Republican primary contest was only half over. Don't the 19 states that haven't had primaries yet get any input? Darn those pesky voters and their preferences.

    April 4, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  10. John 3:16

    Correction.....Romney's unfavorable numbers are high.......... because he is Unfavorable! Plain and simple.

    April 4, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  11. RiadaKram

    Doug Ericson: "McCain is an annoying war monger." TRU DAT!!!

    April 4, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  12. retief1954

    Repubs... the party of GW Bush & Dick Cheney, the party of Rush Limbaugh, the party of McCain and Sarah Palin, the party of Roms and Santo and Newt... need I go on? And these people think they're fit to run America! Hell, they don't even have a firm grip on REALITY! Want proof? Just listen to any of them talk for a couple minutes! (BTW, why aren't we hearing any of these clowns extoll the virtues of the Great W and his era? Gee, I wonder why!... These clowns aren't fit to run a convenience store.

    April 4, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  13. YtownSports

    I'm not a fan of Santorum's but the fact that he is running so close with Romney while being outspent 4 or 5 to 1 says to me that he is NOT irrelevant. It was 4 years ago at this time that McCain was trying to prove he wasn't irrelevant. He had to wait until November to find out the answer was "yes." Everyone should just shut up and let the process play out.

    April 4, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  14. Barronius

    He's just bitter because Santorum is probably more relevant then he is.

    April 4, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  15. once upon a horse

    I would love for CNN to post the You-Tube video of what John McCain said about Mitt Romney back in 2008 when he was running against him. This McCain/Romney hugfest we are seeing now was NOT even close to being there in 2008!

    April 4, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  16. timothy

    I just want more of those crazy GOP debates! I'm not sure if they are trying to be funny or not...

    April 4, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |

    Surprise! McCain supports Mitt McCain. Ricky Santorum and Lizard Gingrich don't care about the Koch brothers and their extremist orders to the GOBP.

    April 4, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC

    Greg Nelson wrote on page 5:

    Santorum knows he cannot win this year. His hope is that he can assist in stopping Romney from winning the general election and then he stands a much better chance in 2016.
    No, it isn't. Are you making stuff up, too, because it sounds good and feels right?

    Santorum clearly stated his reasons for being in the race last year, some time around when debates were starting up and he was consistently polling lower and lower as another individual joined the race. At the time, he was not speaking as as a front runner, much less a nominee. Santorum stated that he wanted to influence the national conversation towards core conservative values, which is exactly what he has consistently done. It also explains his recurring pre-occupation with social issues even though he denies it.

    April 4, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  19. Chumlee

    Old man, please go home

    April 4, 2012 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  20. The Real Tom Paine

    FED UP wrote: We are so far away from the government our founding fathers created for us it dosent seem to matter.
    Even in their lifetimes, the Founding Fathers saw the country they created grow and change away from what they recognised and wanted because of the forces they unleashed. Every time you hear a rightie invoke the Founding Fathers, its an admission that the righties don't understand or even like the country we now have. Romney, Santorum, et all, look backwards for inspiration, and only see the past receding in the distance even faster, and they counter with fear: fear about the future, fear about the other, fear about what they can't control, and so they cling to an idealized past where they think conflict and struggle never existed. Others embrace that opportunity( otherwise known as the future) as a chance to make this country even greater. You don't move forward by turning the clock back. That's why the GOP will lose, and will keep losing.They keep asking why things have changed, while the rest of us say, why not change? What are we afraid of? That's why the righties won't win.

    April 4, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  21. mm

    Advise on who to pick as your running mate and how to run a campaign. Hey, how'd that work for you, John?

    April 4, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  22. mdn

    McCain should look in the mirror if he is interested in the irrelevant. This is Santorum's primary and he should make his own decisions. Failed pilot turned into war mongering Senator who picks pole dancer to be his running mate, has no business giving advice. He recently said that Romney should pick Sarah Palin as his running mate! Case closed on the mean old white man.

    April 4, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  23. Jack

    Mitt the Strawman. Marco the Tinman. What a nightmare. Mitt who created the health care system Obama's Affordable Care Act is based on who will deny he ever did such a thing, and Rubio who would put his own mother in Poor House if he could.

    April 4, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  24. ronjayaz

    As one who supports our president and his re-election, nothing that McCain says has the least bit of credence except "Go San(c)torum and give the GOP another spear in its wounded heart in Pennsylvania." This will be the most unprecedented re-election in the history of the NEW America. The GOP is dead as having come from the party of Lincoln.

    April 4, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  25. anagram_kid

    IMHO the lower three are staying in the race to build their brand. For Rep. Paul it is to help his son get the nod in 2016, for Spkr. Gingrich it is to sell books and obtain speaking engagements and for Sen. Santorum it is for whatever way he decides to fleece his ignorant base next. My guess is a Beck-like TV show where he spreads fear and lies peppered with his interpretation of the Bible. That or maybe modeling sweater vests in Sears catalogs.

    April 4, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
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