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Posted by on Feb 28, 2012 in Politics | 4 comments

Romney Wins Michigan Primary: Did Santorum Get “Newtitus?” (Roundup) UPDATED THURSDAY MORNING

And so it’s over. NBC News and the AP have projected Mitt Romney as winner of the Republican Michigan Presidential primary. In the end, it turned out to be a double header for Romney, who also won in Arizona — thus making his path to the Republican nomination much easier since many GOPers will now conclude that with his resources he is the “inevitable” nominee. TPM gives us the figure:

[See extensive Thursday morning update at bottom of this post.]

With 70 percent of precincts reporting, Romney has 42%, Rick Santorum 37%, Ron Paul 12%, and Newt Gingrich 7%.

Analysis in coming days will center on how Romney won and why.

But some of it will also center on why Romney’s biggest anti-Romney threat yet, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, saw his surge fizzle when he seemed to riding high. And there may be an answer to that question in what happened to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

MSNBC reports:

Romney’s victory in Michigan carries symbolic importance after the contest had been transformed into a key test of his strength as the campaign’s frontrunner. The results follow a tumultuous three weeks that had both candidates fighting for momentum in the Republican nomination contest. Most of the attention was focused on Michigan, where the results could prove to be a turning point in the race.

In Michigan, the state where Romney was born and raised and where his father served as governor, the on-again, off-again front-runner had to wage a tougher-than-expected campaign to avoid an embarrassing loss to Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator….

Romney had barnstormed the state in stops meant to remind voters of his roots here, and taken a newly-aggressive tack against Santorum on the campaign trail. His campaign and a supportive super PAC added support by spending over $4 million combined on advertising.

But unlike other instances in which Romney’s Republican challengers had been unable to respond, Santorum’s campaign and a similarly supportive super PAC spend over $2 million in response. The former Pennsylvania also aggressively went after Romney on the campaign trail, framing Romney as a poor choice for conservatives to face off against President Obama.

Why did Romney win? It’s too early for definitive answers but here are a few thoughts:

  • Romney is a terribly flawed candidate but he is well funded and has a toprate organization.
  • Many reports noted the he had a significant edge over Santorum in absentee ballots.
  • Santorum may have overreached. Santorum seemed to have caught Newtititus. When Gingrich is ahead he tends to become overconfident, makes comments that are controversial or make him seem batty to some. The more many voters get to know Gingrich, the less they may love him. Similarly, Santorum began to talk against contraceptives, had to finesse controversial comments calling Barack Obama a “snob” for calling for young people to go to college, had to soften his comment that JFK’s speech about separation of church and state made him want to puke, and reversed position on how he felt about Democrats voting in the primary. Like Gingrich, Santorum seemed to feel that once he won a few primaries he could say whatever he wanted and did not take into account the amount of scrutiny, pushback and outright ridicule that a controversial comment cold spark as a front-runner.
  • The Santorum robocall that CLEARLY was misleading and went to Democrats, calling on them to vote against Romney since Romney had been against the bailout (so was Santorum) was played over and over on cable shows and reported widely in the press. That may have turned some voters off.
  • Santorum did poorly on women’s votes.
  • News that Democrats were gleefully voting for Santorum (egged on by Michael Moore, and Rush Limbaugh among others) and that Santorum was welcoming it.
  • Earlier in the evening, most media discussion had an underlying assumption that it was likely Romney would lose and centered on the impact of his loss. But then there was a sudden surge of Romney votes and the old “given” was quickly tossed out.

    You could see the shift in this portion of Allapundit’s post on the conservative blog Hot Air:

    Update: 9 p.m. ET is here bearing no surprises. Michigan is too close to call but Romney romps in Arizona. 29 more delegates for Mitt. Jim Geraghty estimates that even in a worst-case scenario for Romney, where Santorum narrowly wins Michigan, he’ll end the night with roughly 43 delegates compares to 16 or so for RS. There’s Team Mitt’s lead talking point tomorrow morning.

    Update: Suddenly, with nearly 20 percent reporting in Michigan, Romney’s up by more than three points and 8,000 votes. He’s way, way, way up on InTrade too, above 90 percent odds to win after being stuck around 50 percent earlier. Romentum?

    CNN has a Michigan exit poll that could provide one answer, if this is what occurs in the end. It has Romney getting 38% of the men’s vote and his prime anti-Romney rival former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum getting 38%. But when you look at the women’s vote, Santorum sagged. Romney 42% and Santorum 37%.

    Another sign that Romney was likely to win: a comment from a supporter that sounded less like typical confident-sounding spin than a statement of fact. CNN’s Political Ticker:

    10:03 p.m. ET – Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Romney supporter, said he expects him to win in the state Tuesday.

    In an interview with @crowleyCNN, Snyder said the general election should focus on the future instead of the past, like the auto bailouts.

    Of course, Romney will argue that but Barack Obama and the Democrats may not quite agree…

    Why is Michigan so important? The Christian Science Monitor sums it up:

    Fair or not, the media is likely to place disproportionate weight on the outcome – especially since Arizona and Michigan are the first contests held since Santorum won Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri three weeks ago – and the loser in Michigan is likely to face increased scrutiny on a host of issues.

    If Romney wins both states (Arizona will almost certainly vote for him), then it’s going to be tougher for Santorum to claim he’s the serious contender for the nomination that he claims to be.

    Santorum has been struggling in recent weeks, and delivered a lackluster debate performance in Arizona last week. His decision to stake all his bets on social issues seems to be backfiring among some voters, and raising questions about whether he can appeal to women, and to more moderate Republicans and independents.

    Also, all the contests he has won so far (except Missouri, whose primary didn’t count and where no other candidates campaigned) have been caucuses. Caucuses, where far fewer voters turn out and those who do tend to be the most enthusiastic and represent the most extreme parts of the party, play to Santorum’s strengths. But he badly needs to demonstrate that he can win in a straight primary, as well.

    Santorum has had trouble appealing to party leaders, whose support he needs to secure in a race this close, and especially given his deficiencies in money, staffing, and organization compared with Romney. And a Michigan win could be pivotal to helping him make his case.

    And Romney?

    On the other hand, a loss for Romney in his home state will also be a big blow.

    Even though he (like Santorum) has sought to temper expectations about his performance there, Michigan is a state that until recently seemed almost certain to go to Romney.

    Romney was born and raised in Michigan, and his father was governor there. Losing would raise questions – yet again – about why Romney is having so much trouble delivering victories in states (like Colorado) that on the surface should have been his, despite all his money and organization advantages.

    There would be more questions about why Romney struggles in particular in the Midwest, where he has yet to win a state and which may be particularly pivotal in the general election. And about whether he is unable to connect to blue-collar, lower-income voters – a population that may be pivotal in November.

    Yet again, his inevitability as nominee would be questioned (look for more talk of a brokered convention), the lack of enthusiasm he generates will be highlighted, and his lack of appeal to more conservative voters will be an issue.


    Update: No sooner did I publish that than, at 10:14 ET, NBC calls Michigan for Romney. Santorum is quasi-conceding right now. Looks like Mitt will win by roughly five points. Realistically, given the recent polling, that’s the best possible result he could have hoped for tonight, good enough to blunt the media’s attempts to spin this as a moral victory for RS even if Mitt did need to outspend Santorum by two to one or so just to hold his home state.

    Update: Romney’s doing so well tonight, in fact, that he might end up with a bonus talking point tomorrow. In 2008, he won the state with 338,000 votes. Tonight, with a little more than 70 percent reporting, he’s north of 306,000. If he outdoes his total four years ago amid lower turnout, he’ll have some dynamite spin for the naysayers.

    Update: One of Romney’s advisors floats another bit of effective spin on Twitter by noting that he’s the only candidate to win primaries in the northeast (New Hampshire), southeast (Florida), southwest (Arizona), and now the midwest.

    Andrew Sullivan:

    Romney staggers on, therefore, without resolving any of his fundamental weaknesses. What Santorum represents – the hard edge of Christianism – remains a solid bloc that the Mormon Romney may be able to overcome by a long, hard slog in the primary, but will need to go very, very negative in the fall to bring out against Obama.

    Not a pretty prospect.

    Tweets from political scientist Larry Sabato, one of the most reliable political analysts, who predicted the Romney victory:

    Larry Sabato ? @LarrySabato Reply Retweet Favorite · Open
    The real question is whether Romney will be back in Michigan this year. Poll match-ups with Obama don’t make it likely.

    33m Larry Sabato ? @LarrySabato Reply Retweet Favorite · Open
    Gov. Bob “I’m Available” McDonnell is with Romney now. Guess he wanted to escape VA General Assembly.

    49m Larry Sabato ? @LarrySabato Reply Retweet Favorite · Open
    The Crystal Ball projected Romney as likely Michigan victor on Friday. This Ball never wavered (rolled?).

    1h Larry Sabato ? @LarrySabato Reply Retweet Favorite · Open
    do you hear that WHEW from Romney HQ? He passed the test.

    Tweets from columnist Dick Polman:

    Reply Retweet Favorite · Open
    Team Mitt managed to find a black person & put her on stage for the cameras! Mich’s GOP primary electorate was 2 percent black.

    32m Dick Polman ? @DickPolman1 Reply Retweet Favorite · Open
    Mitt: “What a win!” Yeah, right. He won his home state by roughly 3 pts. Four years ago, he won it by 9 pts.

    Will Mitt’s home-state win give him the crucial boost he needs next Tues in Ohio?
    42m Dick Polman ? @DickPolman1 Reply Retweet Favorite · Open

    So, Santorum isn’t going to publicly congratulate Mitt? No class. I guess the prospect of saying congrats makes him want to throw up.
    1h Dick Polman ? @DickPolman1 Reply Retweet Favorite · Open

    Gotta think Santorum lost Mich votes at the wire due to his extremist endorsement of theocracy & his demagogic dissing of college education.
    1h Dick Polman ? @DickPolman1 Reply Retweet Favorite · Open

    Maybe Mitt wins 2 tonite, but so what. Next Tues nite, we’ll be talking about the long slog ahead & all the SuperTues states that Mitt lost.

    The National Journal:

    Most people still think Mitt Romney will win the Republican presidential nomination. The question is whether it will be a nomination worth having.

    Forced to fend off an unexpectedly strong challenge from rival Rick Santorum in his childhood home state of Michigan, Romney emerged from Tuesday’s primaries there and in Arizona with more delegates but conspicuous vulnerabilities at a time when President Obama is gaining ground.

    In Michigan, it was less of a resounding victory for Romney than a near-miss of a humiliating defeat at the hands of a toppled Pennsylvania senator who is to the right of the Republican mainstream and running a seat-of-his-pants campaign. And that was the easy part.

    In just one week, the former Massachusetts governor faces a gauntlet of 10 Super Tuesday contests, with the most competitive battlegrounds moving to Ohio and Tennessee. Polls show Santorum ahead in both states, though 45 percent of the voters in the Quinnipiac University poll in Ohio said they might change their minds. Romney is also the underdog in Southern states voting next week with strong conservative and evangelical leanings, like Oklahoma and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s home state of Georgia.

    The contests will keep Romney preoccupied with persuading the GOP’s conservative wing that he is one of them and prevent him from shifting into a general election strategy focused on undermining President Obama’s support among moderate Democrats and independents. Romney’s standing has suffered among Americans who describe themselves as “very conservative,” according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday; only 38 percent of them hold a favorable view of the ex-governor, a 14-percentage-point drop in just one week.

    “He’s still in the fight of his life for the next month,’’ said Republican consultant John Weaver, who advised former Romney rival Jon Huntsman and GOP nominee John McCain in 2008. “If Romney wins the nomination, it will be because he dragged the base kicking and screaming.’’

    The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz:

    Not surprisingly, according to the exit polls, Santorum, with his heavy emphasis on his Catholic faith, took 62 percent of those who say religion matters a great deal to them, and 77 percent of those who named abortion as their top issue. Romney trounced Santorum, 61 to 24, among those who said the most important quality of a candidate was the ability to beat Obama, and won 55 percent of those who most valued business experience.

    One statistic suggests Romney was lucky to hang on: nearly half of those who made up their minds in the last few days broke for Santorum….

    …By denying Santorum a win in either state, the Romney camp slowed down what could have been a bullet train. Santorum sped to the top of the national polls after his triple triumph in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado. Had he followed that up by snatching Michigan, Santorum would have gotten a burst of momentum and deepened the sense that this isn’t Romney’s year.

    Romney’s path to victory followed a familiar formula: outspend your opponent and rough him up in debates. At the CNN faceoff in Mesa, Romney kept Santorum on the defensive on a series of congressional votes as the Pennsylvania Republican attempted to explain why he supported bills he actually opposes.

    But Santorum’s missed opportunites in the last two weeks go well beyond his fluency in Beltway-speak. He allowed himself to get sidetracked into talking about prenatal testing, contraception, and JFK’s religion speech—not to mention his complaint that President Obama “wants you to go to college … to remake you in his image.” Maybe this amounted to narrowcasting to very conservative and evangelical voters, but it can’t have been very appealing to most independents.

    Santorum doesn’t have the normal political instinct for brushing aside questions that take him off message. Instead, he answers—at length—and then complains that the press doesn’t care about the rest of his platform.

    Romney, for his part, seems to be surviving his gaffe-a-week performance…

    Powerline’s John Hindraker:

    Mitt Romney won easily in Arizona today, and various sources are calling Michigan for him as well. From my own review of the voting in Michigan, which is reported here, it seems that Romney’s lead should increase through the evening, as he is winning big in the heavily populated counties around Detroit.

    This despite the fact that, according to exit polls, around 10% of the voters in the GOP primary are Democrats. In an echo of Rush Limbaugh’s 2008 “Operation Chaos,” Democrats and union officials have urged their followers to vote for Santorum so as to promote a weak Republican nominee. Michael Moore advised his fans to vote for Santorum, which probably produced six or seven ballots. Still, if 10% of the voters in the primary were Democrats, and if 80% of them voted for Santorum–a conservative estimate–it added 6% to his total. If my arithmetic is correct, that means that if Romney wins by, say, five points, he actually won by 11 points among Republicans. Right? No doubt a reader will correct my math, but that should be in the ballpark.

    As for delegates, Michigan allots its on a proportional basis, by Congressional district. So the delegate count may not track with the popular vote. That is pretty much immaterial, however; the only thing most people will care about is that Romney won Michigan.

    –Some Tweets by Andy Borowitz:

    3h Andy Borowitz ? @BorowitzReport Reply Retweet Favorite · Open
    The voters of Michigan are basically trying to decide which is the most delicious sandwich at Arby’s. #MIPrimary

    3h Andy Borowitz ? @BorowitzReport Reply Retweet Favorite · Open
    BREAKING: Santorum’s Home-Schooled Kids Unable to Understand Election Returns #MIPrimary

    3h Andy Borowitz ? @BorowitzReport Reply Retweet Favorite · Open

    Rick Santorum is the perfect leader of the abstinence movement because as a person he inspires abstinence.
    4h Andy Borowitz ? @BorowitzReport Reply Retweet Favorite · Open

    BREAKING: In Possible Gaffe, Romney Says He Loves Michigan So Much He’d Like to Buy It #MIPrimary

    The Politico:

    But even though this most wobbly of front-runners will face a new set of challenges next week, Romney eased GOP fears Tuesday. He leaves his childhood home having averted disaster and with the second example in a month of bouncing back from adversity.

    By winning in Michigan and cruising in Arizona, the establishment darling has reasserted his status as the Republican favorite. It may be a slower and messier process than Romney and his aides would prefer, but the former Massachusetts governor still looks on track to eventually capture the GOP nomination.

    Romney could have been summing up his own candidacy when he said in his victory speech here: “We didn’t win by a lot but we won by enough and that’s what counts.”

    By throwing a scare into Romney in a state where he had virtually every advantage, Rick Santorum established himself as the race’s unambiguous conservative alternative. But Santorum’s defeat here also illustrated the limitations of his own candidacy.

    He did himself no favors with loyal GOP activists by launching a robocall attempting to lure Democrats to play in the Republican primary here. His momentum was insufficient to overcome Romney’s organizational strength. Santorum is going to be hard-pressed to bolster his bare-bones operation in just six days before 10 states vote. More importantly, the former Pennsylvania senator must find his inner happy warrior and resist the rhetorical temptations that tripped him up the past two weeks. Musing on national TV about wanting to vomit in response to John F. Kennedy’s speech on religion in politics isn’t the way to win over conservatives, much less convince Republican elites you’re ready for the presidency.

    “Santorum is now badly wounded by both self-inflicted blows and body blows from Romney,” said GOP strategist Curt Anderson. “A wounded Santorum is now all that stands between Romney and the nomination.”

    The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza:

    That simple truth is why Mitt Romney had a good night on Tuesday with victories in the Michigan and Arizona primaries. No, Romney didn’t win his homestate by an overwhelming margin — or even the margin by which he beat Arizona Sen. John McCain in the 2008 Wolverine State primary. And, yes, he had to spend like crazy to beat back former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.

    But, winning is winning. And when Romney needed to win — a loss in Michigan would have crippled his campaign beyond repair (or close to it) — he did.

    “We didn’t win by a lot but we won by enough and that’s all that matters,” said Romney in his Michigan victory speech.

    That does not mean, however, that the race is over. While Romney’s twin victories mean that he will extend his lead in the delegate race, Santorum’s solid Michigan showing coupled with the southern tilt of the states set to vote on Super Tuesday present ongoing problems for Romney. One example: A University of Cincinnati poll in Ohio released on Tuesday showed Santorum with a 37 percent to 26 percent lead over Romney.

    And, exit polling in Michigan proves that Romney continues to have problems with the most conservative element of the Republican party, the bloc of voters who typically have an outsized say in the identity of the GOP nominee.

    –The Nation’s Joan Walsh is taking some heat for making a Romney Mormon joke on Twitter

    Rick Santorum will spend the coming days stitching the wounds he inflicted on himself as he reeled through Michigan, the candidate suggested Tuesday, and advisors and promised a more focused strategy going into Super Tuesday.

    A central part of that plan, Santorum’s top media consultant said: convincing the remaining supporters of Newt Gingrich to switch teams.

    “Even if Gingrich stays in the race, we need a lot of Gingrich supporters to say you know what, this is Santorum versus Romney, I’m gonna vote Santorum,” consultant John Brabender told reporters here after Santorum’s speech, in which the candidate did not concede defeat.

    The key, he said, is to clarify that this is a one-on-one race. “If we go into Super Tuesday and people look at this and say it’s Santorum-Romney, in states like Oklahoma and others with a big conservative contingency, we’ll do well.” But the “pathway to victory” for Romney is if Gingrich manages to “drain votes” from Santorum.

    Brabender expects to win at least five congressional districts in Michigan tonight, and as many as 9. He noted that the campaign is “much better organized than we we ever have been,” and that they have people on the ground in every Super Tuesday state (though “we’re willing to concede Massachusetts. There’s just way too many liberals up there for us. I don’t know, I shouldn’t say that.”).

    As for Santorum’s concession speech tonight — with its overt appeals to female voters, a bloc Santorum has problems with, and blue-collar voters — Brabender resisted the suggestion that it was damage control, as did Santorum spokeswoman Alice Stewart. (Santorum celebrated his mother for being “a professional who actually made more money than her husband,” praised his wife Karen for being a “great example of how it’s important to balance that work and family,” and also lauded daughter Elizabeth for her independence in campaigning for him by herself.)

    TPM has a post about how Santorum’s loss could be worse that it looks. It needs to be read in full but here are some highlights:

    Sure, Rick Santorum gave Mitt Romney a run for his money in his home state. And he should be proud of that. But by not pulling it off, signs point to Santorum making things much harder on himself moving forward than the results indicate…

    Santorum’s spin is simple: he got close in a state he never should have, the state where Romney was born and raised. That’s a win.

    It’s a feeling his team here tonight were keen to push. But there were also concerns about clouds on the horizon thanks to the way Santorum went about getting as close as he did.

    On the national level, Santorum lost the establishment when he pulled out his social issue trump card to take on Romney by courting the evangelical vote.

    That process reached its peak when he told a tea party crowd outside Detroit that President Obama wants to send more kids to college so he could turn them into liberals. The comment went viral, and likely did not do Santorum many favors outside the ultra-conservative base.

    The social issues fight has left Santorum severely wounded when it comes to courting independents and moderate Republicans. None of the views he espoused in the run-up to Michigan were new, but they were resurfaced all at once, taking his campaign’s blue collar economic message off track. Now, no matter what Santorum says, he’s the social issue guy.

    Then there were Santorum’s on-the-ground tactics. He didn’t have much time to assemble a campaign here, and was notoriously understaffed throughout. Still, his message resonated and polls showed things were very close heading into Tuesday’s vote. Then Santorum decided to pull out all the stops, firing up a robocall effort that appeared to piggyback off the existing progressive effort to get Democrats to crossover and vote for Santorum as a means to hurt Romney.

    Though it may have seemed like smart politics, the optics proved hard to swallow even for his supporters…

    –Time’s Mark Halperin has a list of 10 things Romney needs to do now. Here are the top six:

    1. Make really smart Super Tuesday spending decisions.

    2. Make sure he comes out of Super Tuesday having won something besides Virginia, Massachusetts and Vermont.

    3. Stop saying “sport” (and the like).

    4. Do a full, fast analysis of what went wrong that made Michigan so close.

    5. Figure out what is wrong with his campaign operation in general and fix it.

    6. Get back to making an economic argument against the President.

    Redstate’s Eric Ericson:

    When you have a candidate few people really like, whose support is a mile wide and an inch deep, whose raison d’etre (a 4am fancy word) is fixing an economy that is fixing itself without him, and who only wins his actual, factual home state by three percentage points against a guy no one took seriously only two months ago, there really is little reason for independent voters in the general election to choose him if the economy keeps improving.

    Seriously, putting it bluntly, conservatives may not like Barack Obama, but most other people do. And when faced with a guy you like and a guy you don’t like who says he can fix an economy that no longer needs fixing, you’re going to go with the guy you like.

    If Republicans in Washington are not panicked and trying desperately to pull Bobby Jindal in the race tomorrow, or someone like him, the party leaders must have a death wish.Mitt Romney continues to run an uninspiring campaign only able to win by massively outspending his opponents to tell voters how much worse the other guys are. That may work in the primary, but it will not work in a general election where the President of the United States won’t be outspent 5 to 1.

    Three percentage points. In his home state. In his wife’s home state. In the state his father served as Governor. Three percentage points against a guy few took seriously two months ago and who just three weeks ago no one expected to give Romney a run for his money in Romney’s home state.

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