Santorum’s Departure Deflates California Drama

California's primary will just be an afterthought after all

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You can't really blame political junkies and California political reporters. They'd been hoping that, this year, the state's Republican voters might actually play an influential role in determining the presidential nominee.

It was always a long shot however, given how California's primary is nearly dead-last on the election calendar.

And now that Rick Santorum has succumbed to the inevitable and folded his campaign, those California dreams are now just as dead as his presidential ambitions.

Santorum's exit means that Mitt Romney can now, in effect, launch his fall campaign against President Obama.

California has experimented with early primaries in the past, but this year it might have mattered. After all, remember that the state has 172 delegates. That adds up to a whopping 15 percent of the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

On paper, in other words, the state ought to matter.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation last year calling for a single election in June, saying it would save as much as $100 million for the cash-strapped state. But it also deprived the state's Republicans of much hope that their vote would matter.

Still, there was hope.

The Republican Party rules have changed this year, moving away from winner-take-all primaries and awarding more delegates on a proportional basis. That, along with waves of cash from super PACs, had encouraged Santorum, along with Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, to remain in the race.

Could it be, some asked, that the nomination battle might last until June?

It was never likely.

Santorum's exit, after winning 11 states and 285 delegates, is a great source of relief to party officials and big donors who were distressed over the idea of dragging out the suspense over this nomination battle.

But it means that California's primary will be as exciting as a day-old headline. And California will not be contested in the fall. Instead, it will continue in its traditional role, as a source of campaign cash to fund election drama elsewhere.

Related: Santorum Exit Could Shake Up CA Taxes

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