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Down And Pretty Close To Out In Grand Cayman

Rick Santorum has finally sauntered off the big stage, leaving him with plenty of time on his hands to harass high-school girls about their skirt length and bark at the moon about its nocturnal promiscuity. You'd think it would be high times for

Rick Santorum has finally sauntered off the big stage, leaving him with plenty of time on his hands to harass high-school girls about their skirt length and bark at the moon about its nocturnal promiscuity.

You'd think it would be high times for Team Romney. But you'd be wrong.

What once seemed like it would be the GOP's race to lose, or at the very least a spirited general election contest, has seen Mitt Romney and what remained of his party's brand deconstructed and defenstrated. To put it in Yogi-Berra parlance, for the Romney Campaign,"it got late early out there."

Sure Santorum is technically gone, but he'll be with Romney for the rest of this race. Every time the former Massachusetts Governor has to answer to independent women in the Milwaukee or Philadelphia suburbs about why he'd "get rid" of Planned Parenthood," and explain to Latino families in Las Vegas and Phoenix why he'd "veto" the Dream Act, the ever-cherubic apparition of Santorum will be smiling gaily over his shoulder.

There is no doubt that some things are beyond Romney's control. The falling unemployment rate. The Dow's hitting and now hovering around 13,000. The delay in creating those 3 jobs building the car elevator thingy that takes you to the stadium-sized basement in Romney's 3rd house. These were all unexpected.

But not putting Santorum away early even while outspending him like 9:1, so that the social-issue firebrand could stick around and pull the primary so far right that Vladimir Zhirinovsky would have seemed moderate. Mitt has only himself and his severely marvelous personality to thank for that.

The end result—because of Santorum's squatting in the race as long as he did, while taking a rhetorical hatchet to Romney in much the same language as Democrats have—Romney is so unpopular right now if his dog Seamus were still around he might put Romney in the dog kennel on top of the car.

According to CNN polling, the Governor will be the only presidential candidate since 1996 to exit the primaries with a net negative approval rating. If you want the thumbnail sketch, just take a look at North Carolina.

This is a state President Obama barely won in 2008, bringing it into swing state territory for the first time in a generation of electing right-winger Jesse Helms to the Senate consistently. Changing demographics have moved the state to the Left, no doubt, but going into this election most observers would call it a lean-Republican state if they were being honest.

Yet, at this point, Obama is up 5 points, 49 percent to 44 percent. But it is the internals of this poll, which must look to Romney like they've been infected by Ebola, that tell the story of how badly Romney is doing. He only is viewed positively by 29 percent of voters in the Tarheel State, with a whopping 58 percent viewing him unfavorably.

Basically, he'd have to make a pretty steep climb just to reach the favorability level of Kanye West, or Encephalitis.

It is not over yet for Romney, as there are many unpredictable things that can happen (think terrorist attack, economic crash, or mass hypnosis of American voters). But one thing is for sure—he'd better start Etch A Sketching, stat.

This piece was first published at Al Jazeera English

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