04/13/2012 09:23 am ET Updated Aug 28, 2012

For Romney, the Race has Just Begun

This week, the general election unofficially kicked off, making Mitt Romney the likely Republican nominee to face President Obama in the fall. Mitt Romney knows that this is going to be an uphill battle and that for the first time, he'll need to face a candidate that will may have more money than himself. Romney had an easy primary -- enjoying frontrunner status since he jumped in the race -- but no one will remember the 2012 GOP presidential primaries for Romney. They will remember Rick Santorum's 11 surprising and impressive victories, as he was the anti-Romney with no money, but who at least had a clear message and platform.

Rick Santorum ended his campaign rather surprisingly, but at a good time before the Pennsylvania primary -- in his home state -- where polls showed that his victory was not promised. Many politicians enter presidential races for name recognition, knowing that they will not win the White House, and Santorum hit that one out of the park. He ran a campaign that was considered dead the minute after he announced, and Romney was poised to outspend Santorum nearly 5-1. With no real name recognition outside of his home state, maybe Santorum knew that he doesn't have a chance to be president, running against more widely-recognized candidates in the primaries. But he went to all the counties and cities, holding hundreds of town halls, voicing a clear conservative message, and based his campaign on words and opinions rather than money -- and all of that honest campaigning got him 11 states and national recognition. Now people know to take Rick Santorum seriously, after he lost his senate seat with a 16 percent margin in 2006.

Rick Santorum's 11 victories and many second-place results serve as an important wake-up call for the Republican party. These things taught Republicans that conservatives in the party need an answer, and that if Romney loses, it will be the second presidential election in a row that a moderate Republican loses. Both McCain and Romney are moderates that claim that they are true, die-hard conservatives, and they failed. Santorum shows that the Republican party cannot afford to fight in 2016 with a moderate, so they need to nominate not only a minority, but a true conservative who has a clean and steady record.

Rick Santorum was just one out of a couple of conservative candidates this primary round, but only he and Gingrich won states and didn't drop out too soon. Gingrich was sure that he was the conservative super-star, but Santorum took away his "glory," and it makes sense, because how conservative can you be if you had two divorces that were the result of adultery? It made Santorum the de-facto true conservative candidate for the nomination. Santorum, with his steady conservative credentials, fruitful family, beliefs and prayers was the answer to conservatives who felt that 2008 was a miss for the GOP, and that 2012 must not repeat that loss.

If Romney wants to be even close to defeating President Obama, he needs to mainly appeal to two groups -- conservatives and Hispanics. Eleven states won by Santorum, mostly in the south, are no joke, and that's why Santorum must be Romney's spokesperson all around the states he won, reminding people that the party should be united and that there is one main goal -- defeating President Obama. Romney must also choose a die-hard conservative vice-residential candidate who can make up for Romney's moderation. But this time, they should vet the candidate properly, free of controversies and gaffes. Perhaps Romney's moderation can also help him with Independents and people who are disappointed by the president.

Romney also must champion Hispanic support, because without it, he can't even dream about winning New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Florida and other states. If Romney cannot appeal to Hispanics, they will either vote for Obama or not vote at all. Romney must find a way to show that the Republican party can be a comfortable political home for Hispanics, and to that end he should enlist the help of Senator Rubio, Governor Martinez and Jeb Bush, who is revered by Hispanics.

The general election is fully underway, and the Obama campaign has started to attack Romney at full speed. This election will be dirty, harsh and extremely expensive. President Obama, as it seems, will probably win the elections based on polls and different projections that give him more than 270 electoral votes, winning in different swing states. Romney will go home after two failed presidential bids, but Rick Santorum is the big shot for the GOP, and he will undoubtedly either make another comeback at politics, or just make loads of money. In some ways, Rick Santorum won. Perhaps not the nomination or presidency, but he left his deep mark and taught the Republican Party that saying your'e conservative isn't enough -- you just plain and simply have to be one.