Wisconsin primary win not the 'tipping point' for the Romney campaign

Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” explores what we might call the threshold or boiling point in life’s endeavors. Some define it as that moment of critical mass or “the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

After a protracted Republican primary season, many viewed tonight as the potential “tipping point night” in the Mitt Romney campaign. This was to be the win where things changed. Many pundits claimed as Wisconsin goes, so goes the rest of the primary season.

Conventional wisdom would certainly point to them being right. In Wisconsin, Rep. Paul Ryan, Sen. Ron Johnson and other members of the Republican leadership coalesced behind the Romney campaign.

In the 98 delegate contest that included Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia, Romney won enough to take him above 600 delegates and inched even closer to the magic number of 1,144 delegates.

Problem is, this is an unconventional year. Who would have predicted just a few months ago that Rick Santorum would be the last man standing to challenge Romney?

Wisconsin did mean a lot in the long, slow trudge toward amassing delegates, galvanizing the establishment, and sustaining momentum.

However, it will not prove to be the “tipping point” so many had anticipated.

Santorum and Gingrich never got the memo. After Romney’s sweep of the primaries, Santorum gave a speech about looking toward the future and May primaries.

Gingrich sent out a defiant press release saying, “Our party must commit itself to a bold, conservative platform. We cannot win on an etch-a-sketch platform that shows no principle or backbone.”

What does all this mean?

For one, mathematical certainties at this point mean nothing to Gingrich and have never meant anything to Santorum.

If they did, Santorum would never have entered the race in the first place. At the beginning of his campaign, many thought his chances of standing where he is now in the contest were somewhere between being killed by a meteor tomorrow and winning the latest round of Powerball. These guys aren’t going away.

Two, in politics it’s the guy with nothing to lose that can hurt you the most, and at this point it seems both Santorum and Gingrich are burning the canoes to avoid any graceful, quick exit from the race.

In conventional political terms, this is the equivalent of dealing with a kamikaze warrior committed to victory or death.

I say this because, with the handwriting on the wall as it is, 99 out of 100 political figures would not risk playing the card Santorum is now throwing on the table.

He is going to fight in Pennsylvania, where if he loses, he could seriously hurt his future political viability. In Pennsylvania Santorum is risking two back-to-back losses on his home court, where people supposedly know him best.

Three, grab the binoculars and watch Pennsylvania.

If there is anything close to a tipping point in the Santorum campaign, this will be it. Expect crazy amounts of money and lots of surrogates to show up trying to kill off the insurgent.

They will figure they have Santorum trapped in the Keystone state, but getting cornered is not typically what insurgents do. Here in South Carolina, Francis Marion, "the swamp fox," hit revolutionary forces and then headed for the marshes, knowing he didn’t have the troops to match British forces in head-to-head combat.

Finally, while Romney will attempt to focus on Obama and general election themes, he won’t be so lucky. None of his primary challengers, or the press, is going to allow him to rise above the present battle.

That’s a problem given the punches are having an accumulated effect. The latest Washington Post poll showed that the more independents have gotten to know Mitt, the less they liked him.

So, expect the slings and arrows, and their coverage, of this ever so unusual Republican primary to persist.

The “tipping point” in this contest has not yet arrived…but it might in Pennsylvania - or come to think of it in Texas…or for that matter how about California?

Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford is a Fox News contributor.