Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Another GOP Momentum Shift?

Just when the public was starting to get used to the idea of Rick Santorum perhaps becoming the new Republican presidential frontrunner, it appears that another momentum shift may be under way. After steady gains in national and state polls in the last two weeks, the Santorum juggernaut — which has been powered by both the passion of evangelicals and the widespread dissatisfaction on the right with Mitt Romney — may be starting to lose a bit of steam. Another new poll out of Michigan shows Romney gaining ground today and resuming a small lead over Santorum. When combined with other surveys showing the former Massachusetts governor assuming a sizeable lead in Arizona — which along with Michigan will hold primaries seven days from now — the Michigan polls ought to worry Santorum’s camp.

Up until late last week, Santorum had been leading a charmed life as far as avoiding negative publicity and engendering good will. But when the debate about contraception morphed from one about defending the religious freedom of the Catholic Church into one that centered on Santorum’s personal views on the matter, it served to remind Republicans his stands on social issues tend to be outside of the mainstream. While most Republicans do not hold his ideas about the importance of the family and opposition to abortion and gay marriage against him, the last week has been highly reminiscent of the way his 2006 Senate re-election campaign was dogged by controversial quotes from his book, It Takes a Family. Though Romney is still plagued by his inability to connect with ordinary voters and doubt has been cast on the notion of his greater electability, the kerfuffle about birth control may have been just enough to halt Santorum’s momentum and give his more moderate opponent a chance to save his candidacy before the voters in his home state of Michigan destroyed his hopes.

The Mitchell/Rosetta Stone Poll of Michigan conducted for the Michigan Information & Research Service shows Romney gaining considerable ground in the last week. The previous poll of Michigan Republicans showed Santorum with a nine-point, 34-25 percent lead. In less than seven days, Romney gained seven percentage points to resume a 32-30 advantage.

But the news was not all bad for Santorum today as a Rasmussen poll showed him holding on to a 38-34 percent lead over Romney. That was a slight improvement over Rasmussen’s survey taken a week ago that showed him with a 35-32 percent lead.

Taken together, these latest polls indicate that the Michigan primary is still up for grabs, because no matter which one you think is more accurate, both have produced results within the statistical margin of error. Clearly, either of the two leading candidates can still win the state, but it is to Romney’s advantage that the trend of the last three weeks (in which Santorum made steady gains) appears to have ebbed. These polls also confirm Newt Gingrich is not a factor in Michigan or any other upcoming state besides his home in Georgia. If Gingrich continues to lose ground that will be a major problem for Romney. Voters who abandon the former speaker because he is no longer seen as viable are most likely to wind up in Santorum’s column.

A lot can happen in the next seven days with tomorrow night’s CNN debate from Michigan (the first GOP debate in nearly a month) assuming great importance in the minds of the media if not the voters. Santorum’s debate performances have been consistently outstanding, but this time he will be appearing as one of the frontrunners and with a big target on his back rather than being able to stand aside as Gingrich and Romney savage each other. Romney’s enormous financial advantage will also be the focus of much coverage as he is likely to continue swamping the state with advertisements in the upcoming days, and Santorum will not be able to match or even come close to his efforts.

Santorum’s message of blue-collar conservatism is tailor-made for Michigan. But the race is sufficiently close that any doubts about his viability because of his hard line social views could be enough to help Romney squeak through to victory. The halt in his momentum also could enable Romney to survive his campaign’s most severe test.



Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.