I get that Michigan was a tight race, but come on now:
“You can only look at Michigan and move it from a win for Mitt Romney to a tie race,” [Santorum adviser John] Brabender said on a conference call with reporters. “If we can do this well in Romney’s home state we clearly think this bodes well for Super Tuesday states.”
The latest estimates from CNN showed both candidates with 15 Wolverine State delegates, while Romney is ahead in the popular vote with 41 percent to Santorum’s 38 percent. That leaves none of the 30 total Michigan delegates still in play.
Reviewing the exit poll data from last night’s primaries in Arizona and Michigan – which National Journal’s Ron Brownstein does with typical care and insight — it appears as if several things happened. Mitt Romney did well with demographic groups with which he’s done well in the past: voters who are white collar, upper income, college educated, non-evangelical Christians and somewhat conservative/moderate. For example, Romney beat Rick Santorum by roughly 20 percentage points in Oakland County, a white collar suburb outside of Detroit. Among self-identified Republicans in Michigan, Romney beat Santorum by an impressive 13 points (49 percent v. 36 percent).
Rick Santorum, on the other hand, did well, though not great, with people who consider themselves very conservative and who identify themselves as evangelical Christians. But where Santorum was hurt the most was with blue collar voters. He lost to Romney in Macomb County, a white working class suburb outside of Detroit, and barely won in Genesse Country, which incorporates the blue collar city of Flint. In Michigan, Santorum lost to Romney among Catholics (45 v. 37) and women (42 v. 37, including every category of women polled, including working women, single women, and married women). In Arizona in particular, but also in Michigan, Santorum simply was not able to cobble together a coalition that went much beyond the core of the GOP base.
On a night in which he could have lost the presidential nomination, Mitt Romney survived the worst crisis of his campaign by sweeping both the Arizona and Michigan primaries. With polls showing his native Michigan being too close to call, Romney’s 41-38 percentage point win was not impressive, but Rick Santorum lost his one golden opportunity to demolish the frontrunner. Santorum can claim a moral victory of sorts because he managed to come so close to winning in a state in which few gave him a chance several weeks ago.
But Romney’s Michigan win combined with a big victory in Arizona denied his rival the chance to alter the dynamics of the race. A Santorum win in Michigan would have permanently demolished the idea that Romney was the inevitable nominee. Slim though Romney’s margin was, two more states in his column make it highly unlikely anyone else can take the nomination from him.
As soon as the polls closed in Arizona tonight, the networks declared Mitt Romney the winner of the state’s Republican primary. The state’s winner-take-all format will ensure that all of Arizona’s 29 delegates go to Romney, which makes it a not inconsiderable prize. Romney’s decisive advantage there makes it an impressive win but unfortunately for him, his Arizona triumph won’t mean much if he can’t hold onto the slim lead he currently holds in Michigan.
Michigan remains the true test tonight and a Santorum win there will be a devastating blow to the frontrunner. Santorum’s camp will, not without some justice, proclaim even a close loss there as a moral victory for their candidate. But if Romney escapes his native state with a victory of any kind, it will be a lost opportunity for Santorum. An upset in Michigan is his best chance to knock off his rival.
A few minutes ago, CNN showed a graphic of how much the two leading contenders spent on television ads in Michigan. A rough breakdown shows that Mitt Romney spent $3.1 million to $2.1 million for Rick Santorum. A 3-2 edge is a clear advantage for Romney but nowhere near the big edge he had in Florida where he literally drowned Newt Gingrich in negative broadcast advertising. Of course, these figures don’t include the funds available for organizational needs or turnout, but it demonstrates that for all of the talk of Romney’s overwhelming advantage in fundraising, Santorum has demonstrated the capacity to raise enough money to compete.
This means we shouldn’t listen too much to Santorum’s complaints about Romney buying the election if he loses. At the same time, the assumption that Romney has the resources to overwhelm his opponents if the race proves to be a long, drawn-out slugfest may also be incorrect.
Earlier today we were speculating about the impact of Democrats participating in the Republican primary in Michigan. Would Democrats vote for Rick Santorum as part of a dirty trick in order to promote a less electable Republican, as Mitt Romney seemed to be claiming? Or would these crossovers be legitimate Reagan Democrats who like Santorum’s stands on social issues as well as expressing working class disdain for a swell like Romney? Or would, as Romney hopes, more moderate independents and Democrats prefer him to a candidate whose views on abortion, gays and contraception are considered extreme?
We don’t know the answer to that question but it is clear that whatever their motivation, Michigan Democrats and independents are going to have a disproportionate impact on a crucial Republican contest. The New York Times reports exit polls show that 10 percent of those voting today in Michigan are Democrats. It also says that irrespective of party affiliation, six in ten consider themselves conservative while 30 percent say they are very conservative and another thirty percent say they are moderate. In theory that is a picture of an electorate that might be more sympathetic to Santorum.
Intrade is still giving Mitt Romney a 55 percent chance of winning Michigan tonight. But imagine what those internal campaign polls look like if Romney’s holding a press conference like this the day of the primary:
The morning after confidently declaring he would win Michigan’s primary, on Tuesday Mitt Romney acknowledged a series of gaffes had damaged his effort and downplayed expectations for the voting results in the state where he was born. …
When pressed by reporters, Romney acknowledged he had hurt his campaign with a series of comments in which he seemed to casually flaunt his wealth. Over the past several days, Romney mentioned his wife drives “a couple of Cadillacs” and told an Associated Press reporter he has friends who are NASCAR team owners.
A reporter asked if these remarks had hurt him.
“Yes,” Romney said. “Next question.”
After days of Mitt Romney and his advisors insisting he will win his home state of Michigan, today’s too-close-to-call polls are clearly taking a toll on his nerves. Romney lashed out at the right wing today, and again accused Rick Santorum of trying to hijack the election with dirty tricks. AP reports:
Mitt Romney says he’s struggling with the Republican Party’s right wing in Michigan because he’s unwilling to make “incendiary” comments. He also accused rival Rick Santorum of trying to “kidnap” the presidential nominating process with automated calls urging Democrats to vote in Tuesday’s primary in Michigan.
Speaking to reporters hours after the polls opened, Romney suggested his rivals are making headway with the GOP base because they are willing to say “outrageous things” that help them in the polls.
Romney says he’s not willing to light his “hair on fire” to try to earn support.
Mitt Romney has been running for the Republican presidential nomination for more than five years. But after all the millions of dollars he has spent on attaining this goal and the endless trips and speeches he has made and all the debates in which he has participated, it may just come down to what happens today in Michigan. A loss in the Michigan primary isn’t necessarily fatal to his hopes. He is expected to win easily in Arizona today and given the fact that many in the party would regard Rick Santorum’s nomination as an unmitigated disaster, it should be expected that even after a defeat in his home state, Romney could eventually prevail in a long race. But a loss in Michigan would puncture, perhaps fatally, the notion of Romney’s inevitability. And it could also set in a motion a series of events, heretofore considered highly unlikely, that could lead to a deadlocked convention and the emergence of an alternative Republican candidate. All of which is to say if Romney intends to take the presidential oath in Washington next January, he had better pull out a win today.
Yet with the polls tightening in the last days before the Michigan primary, a Romney victory is very much in doubt. As Alana noted, Romney is complaining about Santorum’s effort to get Democrats to vote for him, something he considers a dirty trick. But while he might consider the robocalls underhanded, the attempt to get registered Democrats to cross over and vote for Santorum is a reflection of Romney’s weakness, not a dirty trick. Though the former Pennsylvania senator may be unelectable in November, he is well placed to appeal to one element of the old Ronald Reagan coalition: the working class Democrats who voted their values and backed the GOP in 1980 and were immortalized in Stanley Greenberg’s study that centered on Macomb County, Michigan.
At the New York Times, Nate Silver writes that the race in Michigan is too close to accurately predict:
People sometimes apply the term “tossup” a bit too broadly, using it to refer to anything close enough that they don’t want to render a prediction about it.
In Michigan, however, the term is appropriate. Rick Santorum, who once trailed Mitt Romney badly in the state, then surged to a clear lead there, then saw Romney regain his footing and pull back ahead, appears to have some late momentum in the race — perhaps just enough to win, and perhaps not.
Up until today, the trend in Michigan had seemed to be running heavily in Mitt Romney’s favor as Rick Santorum’s February surge sputtered to a halt amid his controversial social issue stands and poor debate performance. But the results from two of the latest polls are a portrait of a race still up for grabs. Both Rasmussen and the Mitchell/Rosetta Stone surveys of Michigan Republicans showed a slight uptick for Santorum. The previous Rasmussen poll taken last Thursday (immediately after Santorum’s bad debate night) showed Romney leading by a 40-34-percentage point margin. Their latest poll conducted on Sunday shows Romney only up by 2 points at 38-36. Last Thursday, Mitchell/Rosetta Stone had Romney up 36-33. By Sunday, their pollsters found Santorum was leading 37-35.
What does this mean? The experience of the last month illustrates plainly that anyone who tries to predict the outcome of anything to do with the GOP presidential race is likely to be wrong the majority of the time. How Santorum managed to gain ground during a three-day period when he seemed to do nothing but stumble is beyond me. But perhaps we are looking at this problem from the wrong end of the telescope. Every time Romney has seemed ready to cruise to an inevitable victory, his failure to connect with grass-roots voters has dealt him setbacks. It may be that more Michiganders thought Romney looked silly speaking to a tiny crowd in cavernous Ford Field or found his comment about his wife’s Cadillac collection off-putting than paid attention to Santorum’s swipes at John F. Kennedy. But no matter what the explanation, Romney’s well-oiled organization and party establishment support will need to turn out the vote for him tomorrow lest he be dealt a devastating setback.
There’s a chance Rick Santorum may still scrape out a win in Michigan tomorrow. This morning’s Public Policy Polling survey has Mitt Romney leading him by just a few points, 39 percent to 37 percent. But the internal numbers look worse for Santorum, and his ongoing slide in the state seems to be due to his focus on social issues:
One place Santorum may have hurt himself in the last week is an overemphasis on social issues. 69 percent of voters say they’re generally more concerned with economic issues this year to only 17 percent who pick social issues. And with the overwhelming majority of voters more concerned about the economy, Romney leads Santorum 45-30. Santorum’s winning those more concerned about social issues 79-12 but it’s just not that big a piece of the pie.
With only a couple of days left until the crucial Michigan primary, it appears that the latest momentum swing in the Republican presidential contest may have saved Mitt Romney’s candidacy. A loss to Rick Santorum in his home state would be a devastating blow to the GOP’s erstwhile frontrunner. But Santorum’s surprising surge appears to have ground to halt in the last week. A renewed focus on his extremely conservative views on social issues combined with an all-out attack on his congressional record by Romney’s well-oiled campaign machine has damaged the Pennsylvanian. Even more, a poor performance in what was probably the last Republican debate on Wednesday may have been the turning point in this latest chapter of a highly volatile race. All signs point to a Romney victory in Michigan on Tuesday. With Arizona also likely to go for Romney that same day, it will be possible for his campaign to again proclaim his nomination is inevitable.
But amid the good news, there are also some troubling signs for Romney. Just as he did a month earlier with Newt Gingrich in Florida, Romney’s assaults have succeeded in diminishing the appeal of his foe. By going negative in this manner, he has further embittered an already nasty primary battle and ensured his opponents will stay in the race long after they are no longer viable. Even more importantly, by attacking Santorum from the right, Romney has given new credence to the charges he is a hypocrite and a political chameleon who is willing to say anything in order to gain a momentary advantage. This will hurt him in the long slog toward November.
Rasmussen has the first post-debate poll out, and it looks like Mitt Romney has regained a comfortable lead over Rick Santorum in Michigan:
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary Voters in Michigan shows Romney with 40 percent of the vote and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum with 34 percent. The poll was conducted on Thursday night, following the last scheduled debate among the GOP candidates.
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.