Moments after the polls closed in Louisiana tonight, Rick Santorum was proclaimed the victor. Polls had shown the former senator with a big lead going into Saturday and it appears the state’s heavy concentration of evangelicals and Deep South conservatives has given him a big victory. But though Santorum spoke of Louisiana once again changing the dynamic of the GOP race, it’s too late for that. Though the first few months of the campaign were characterized by frequent momentum shifts, with almost half of the delegates to the Republican National Convention already chosen, the pattern of the contest is now already set in stone. Mitt Romney’s lead, which won’t be affected much by Santorum’s win tonight, is too big.
The chance for that next big momentum change Santorum was looking for has already come and gone. The opportunity for that game changing victory was there for the taking in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois where a win over Romney would have demonstrated that Santorum could take large and diverse states, not just the ones dominated by evangelicals. But having lost each one of those tests, Louisiana won’t make up for those defeats. That means tonight’s party may be one of the last moments for Santorum’s supporters to celebrate as he faces likely defeat in a string of states that will vote next.