Michigan: The catalyst for Super Tuesday and make or break election for Mitt Romney’s campaign

The more I look at this, the more I believe this is it for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential run.  The state he was born in will determine if he falls by the wayside of this presidential election cycle.  With neighboring Ohio looking like Santorum is running away with that state, evidenced by a prominent endorsement switch, the stakes couldn’t be higher for Romney.  A Michigan loss would be catastrophic from a public perception standpoint

My guess is currently Santorum is in the lead by 5-7 points 11 days out looking at the polls with no evidence of any momentum either way since the first polls after Santorum’s tri-state sweep.  Santorum’s time until February 28th consists of living in Michigan with an Ohio visit or two sprinkled in.  Though Romney may drop a ton of negative ads in Michigan, Santorum actually is quite attractive to the people of Michigan with his ideas for jump-starting the manufacturing sector.  His record in Washington though some positions he has taken tick conservatives off, are actually appealing to people in Michigan.  Also, Santorum has been on a fundraising tear which allows him to be able to adequately respond to Romney attacks and expand his organizational infrastructure.  In essence, Romney is needing Santorum to trip, or Newt Gingrich to siphon off votes from Santorum, keeping Romney within striking distance.  Speaking of which:

Ten million bucks could give Gingrich a last shot at the nomination. Though he’s writing off the February 28 votes in Michigan and Arizona, he  could fare well in some of the ten Super Tuesday states that will vote on March 6, many of them southern states, including Newt’s home state of Georgia. But it’s possible that Mitt Romney is the real beneficiary here. The more the anti-Mitt vote is split, the better off he is. His nightmare is that either Gingrich or Rick Santorum drops out and the remaining candidate consolidates the conservative base and starts drawing majority votes in the primaries. Divide and conquer is Mitt’s winning formula.

But won’t much of that $10 million just go into negative attacks against Romney, who, it’s possible, can’t sustain much more damage before collapsing entirely himself? That’s not clear. Adelson was not thrilled with the Mitt-bashing his money funded in South Carolina, and it’s possible that he’s giving on the condition that Gingrich’s camp doesn’t disembowel Romney. As I wrote recently, Adelson likes Romney fine, and is comfortable with the idea of a Romney White House. His support for Gingrich has been a matter of friendship, not anti-Romneyism. And to hear the Wall Street Journal tell it, it’s Santorum whom Adelson thinks should not be the nominee.

You can imagine, then, the logical deal he might have struck with Gingrich backers: Here’s another ten million. Spend it on positive ads. Spend it slamming Santorum–especially in Michigan, please. But go easy on Mitt.

I don’t think this is so far fetched.  Personally, I think Gingrich’s goose is cooked.  His favorablility ratings have plummeted and voters in his camp and are stampeding to Santorum.  The only reason for him to stay in the race would be to help…Romney?  Last time I checked, Newt Gingrich wasn’t Mitt Romney’s greatest fan to put it lightly.  Strange bedfellows to say the least.  When the race gets down to a two-person race, Santorum absolutely cleans Romney’s clock.

There has been much made about an reverse Operation Chaos in Michigan by liberals helping Santorum win in Michigan which I think is kind of absurd.  If Obama is so confident of creaming Santorum in a head-to-head matchup, why this?

The campaign sent an e-mail asking Obama’s Keystone State supporters to submit their most damning “recollections” of Santorum, who served as a congressman and a senator from Pennsylvania for 16 years before losing reelection in 2006.

Santorum became a favorite target of liberals with his passionate statements against homosexuality and abortion, but despite his deeply conservative take on social issues, he has shown some ability to connect with blue-collar voters in the GOP presidential race — voters who have been a hard sell for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and could be crucial in a general election.

“Folks across the country are just starting to learn about Rick Santorum as he enjoys his newfound wave of popularity,” says the note, which was signed by Bill Hyers, Pennsylvania state director for Obama for America. “But people here have known him for some time. .?.?. And it’s on us to make sure the rest of the country sees Rick Santorum’s true colors.”

Will they start asking the “bitter clingers” in Pennsylvania, too?  Team Obama seems very worried about that blue-collar vote, and they should be, especially in PA, to whom that “bitter clinger” remark was directed in 2008.  Hillary Clinton beat Obama in Pennsylvania and Ohio by winning that demographic, and Santorum would be better positioned than Romney to do the same in a general election.  Obama cannot win the White House if he loses both states in November, plus Indiana and possibly Wisconsin, where he’s already in trouble.

This was one of the chief advantages I was alluding to when I speculated what challenge as a candidate Santorum would pose to Obama.  Those Reagan Democrats, blue collar union social conservatives.  The talk all the time is who will get the independent swing voters where Obama has been hovering in the 35% range since 2010.  However, Obama absolutely needs the backing of this very important group.  If he doesn’t, Santorum will win in a walk in November.

Aside from this big problem, Obama has to worry about Greece defaulting, throwing Europe into a deeper recession and thus adversely affecting our economy, skyrocketing gas prices in the summer and the fall, and a debt ceiling fight that apparently is going to come up before Election Day.  And people are worried that Obama is a shoe-in to get re-elected less than nine months out?

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