Rick Santorum appeared to have it all nearly a week ago.  He had a solid national lead in the GOP race, was leading in MI by double-digits and was even narrowing Romney’s lead in AZ.  But Santorum’s momentum has come to a screeching halt.  Santorum’s missteps on social issues, his weak debate performance in AZ and lack of cash have allowed Romney to fight back and make MI a toss-up again and fortify his lead in AZ.  Worse for Santorum are rumors of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes where Gingrich’s Super PAC donor and Ron Paul are taking it easy on Romney.  In other words they are targeting Santorum.

Santorum came onto the national scene late.  Sure his initial second-place finish (later confirmed the winner by 34 votes) in IA was impressive but he was a non-factor in NH, SC and Florida.  His victories in the Febuary 7th Caucus in MN and CO, straw poll in MO.  But his win in MO was a straw poll win (meaningless except for talking heads).  His win in MN did not net him any delegates.  In CO Santorum won by 6%. Yet Romney won the most populous counties and won a couple Congressional Districts thus netting almost as many delegates as Santorum did.

Since Santorum’s rise over two weeks ago and Romney’s steady decline the narrative has been how once again Romney is struggling and how he must win, win, win.  And by win I mean MI especially.  But Romney has always held advantages that Santorum could never match.  Romney is a better debater (less so on the stump), has and still does have a much greater financial advantage and has the party’s backing.  All these things have begun to take their toll on Santorum.  Talking heads can feel better because they did not say if Romney lost Michigan he would lose the nomination, just that it would be much harder.

Now it looks like for Santorum to stay relevant must win MI.  Consider these facts.  First, Santorum has fewer votes in the overall contest than either Romney or Gingrich.  Second, Santorum has only won TWO states where he has received delegates.  Third, he is still in third place in terms of the number of allocated delegates.  Fourth, both Gingrich and Romney now have more cash on hand then his campaign does.  This all adds up to Santorum needing to win MI to stay relevant in the week leading to Super Tuesday as AZ is certain to go to Romney by a big margin.

Virtually every challenger to Romney in the topsy-turvy GOP race has risen on pure momentum alone.  The only exception was Perry and he fell because of poor debate performances.  But Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich and now Santorum all challenged (or still are) Romney on momentum.  No candidate has been able to come close to the cash advantage Romney has had, nor such a rock-solid national floor of 25% or so support.  Instead, they have needed to keep challenging Romney simply through winning and Santorum appears to be no exception to the rule in this race.

All these factors point to Santorum desperately needing to win Michigan on Super Tuesday.  Romney’s money advantage is already turning the corner in the state.  His campaign and affiliated Super PACs have reportedly spent over $10 million in the state. Thousands of volunteers have been canvassing the state daily for the last two weeks.  And the most recent surveys on the race, conducted by Rasmussen and PPP, which use interesting likely voting screen models find Romney ahead 40%-34% and 39%-37%.  The Rasmussen survey found Romney even led among the most interested voters.  The PPP survey found only 16% of voters had cast their ballot but Romney led among them 62%-29%. 

Santorum’s entire campaign strategy should now lie on winning Michigan.  Spending six figures in the state is not going to be able to combat Romney’s war chest.  If Santorum loses Michigan his claim to being able to win blue-collar voters and maximizing white turnout would be severely limited.  And for key states like Ohio that vote a week later that could be significant and provide Romney the boost in credibility and momentum he needs to dominate the delegate count on Super Tuesday.  Gallup’s lateest tracking poll now has Romney recapturing the national lead over Santorum 31%-29%. 

If Santorum loses Michigan on Tuesday his challenge to Romney could effectively be over.  And by the process of attrition that could mean there will be nobody else remaining to challenge Romney.  In fact the only candidate left to challenge Romney would be Paul and national polls consistently show he is unacceptable to a majority of GOP voters.  Perhaps Gingrich can rise for a third time.

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3 thoughts on “Santorum must win Michigan on Tuesday!

  1. It looks like Santorum has won Michigan when you look beyond the popular vote (which is spread by 32,000 votes, i.e. 3%). I day this because MI gives out delegates based on who wins each Congressional district, and Santorum actually won more districts than Romney.

    1. I cannot disagree. Santorum likely will come out of MI with two or three more delegates than Romney. But Romney won AZ and all its 29 delegates. So Romney dominated the delegate count tonight. Furthermore, Romney has the talkin pts of saying he won the pop vote in MI even as Santorum had Democrats try to steal the election for him.

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