Meet Rick Santorum, the only major presidential candidate ever to model his campaign after one that was unsuccessful:
HE'S HOPELESSLY behind in the delegate count, and his campaign is practically hitchhiking to Tampa on nickels and dimes, but make no mistake about it: Rick Santorum is still running to be president.
At some point, he stopped campaigning realistically to take the oath on Jan. 20, 2013. The president who Santorum is running to be is Ronald Reagan.
And here's where it gets even weirder: The Gipper role that Santorum is auditioning for is the 1976 model - the year when Reagan lost.
In reporting the story, I talked to Reagan biographer Lou Cannon. He knew Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was a friend of his. And you, Rick Santorum, sir, are no Ronald Reagan.
Maybe it's just impossible to be Ronald Reagan in a party that veers so far right and yet backward at the same time.
"I respect Santorum because he's saying what he believes and he's got grit like Reagan," Cannon said in an interview. "But he doesn't seem to have the same sense of the moment."
Cannon said that Reagan clawed back into the race in 1976 with an upset North Carolina primary win by buying 30-minute blocks of late-night TV and talking substance - slamming Ford over U.S.-Soviet relations and for giving back the Panama Canal.
In contrast, he noted, Santorum gets sidetracked by odd statements - like his remarks on John F. Kennedy or college-education "snobbery" - and is focused on divisive social issues like abortion that were never at the core of a Reagan campaign.
Discuss. I wrote this piece last night and already my mind is racing ahead to other things.