If you listen to Ralph Reed, you’d almost get the idea that Rick Santorum’s exit from the GOP nomination race is good news for evangelicals.

Rick Santorum’s exit from the Republican presidential contest this past week cleared the way for Mitt Romney to win the party’s nomination. But over the course of a low-budget campaign that relied almost entirely on volunteers and was met with disdain by the GOP establishment, Santorum won more than 3 million votes and 11 state primaries — the most by a conservative insurgent candidate since Ronald Reagan challenged President Gerald Ford in 1976. . . .

But Santorum and his supporters may have the last laugh. From John C. Fremont to William Jennings Bryan in the 19th century to Barry Goldwater, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern and Ronald Reagan in our time, losing presidential candidates have previewed the ideological trajectory of their parties — and often of the nation.

Right. I note, though, that Reed left out such trailblazers as Bob Dole and John McCain. But I digress . . .

Reed’s point, such as it is, is that Romney’s only chance in November is to (as the headline puts it) “channel Rick Santorum.” Romney, says Reed, must win over Santorum’s TheoCon supporters while holding fast to the strong fiscal conservative message.

</shot across Mitt’s bow>

Gosh, Mitt: were you listening? I hope Reed’s cannonball didn’t hurt anyone. Sure, you beat the evangelicals’ favored candidate again and again and again, but you clearly better become more evangelical-friendly. After all, losing candidates like Santorum are simply ahead of their time — so if you don’t want to end up going the wrong way, you better head down the road Santorum was pointing to.

Meanwhile, over at NPR, Richard Land also has a few important words for Romney:

HOST ROBERT SIEGEL: Is Governor Romney a Republican whom social conservatives, in particular evangelical Christians, can learn to love?

LAND: Yes, I think that people have to understand that being for Rick Santorum does not necessarily mean you’re anti-Romney. First of all, about 40 percent of evangelicals were voting for him – or even more than that in the recent primaries – against Rick Santorum.

And against Barack Obama, it will not be very difficult at all for Mister Romney to garner the support of both the evangelicals, unless he were to do something catastrophic, like pick a pro-choice running mate, which I don’t think he’s going to do.

</shot across Mitt’s bow>

Shorter Land: Nice victory you’ve got there, Governor. It’d be a shame if anything were to happen to it.

Then there’s Tony Perkins . . .

</shot across Mitt’s bow>

My, but there are a lot of shots flying these days . . .

I wonder if Romney will take the not-so-subtle hints and pick a TheoCon running mate, or will he blow off these TheoCon leaders as whiners simply looking for a seat on the fancy Romney campaign jet.

Either way he goes, one thing is clear. Just because Rick Santorum has suspended his campaign doesn’t mean that the TheoCons have suspended theirs. Indeed, their campaign seems like it’s just getting into gear.

If nothing else, Romney better be on the lookout for more cannon balls.

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photo h/t: Graham Richardson (aka digbygraham)