The Republican primary battle is ending in Michigan and the candidates will be moving on to suck up to the voters of different states. Just watch. Tomorrow Mitt Romney will be telling the residents of other states that their trees are the ones which are the right height. At the moment it is not possible to predict the winner. Romney retook the lead in most polls but a Public Policy Polling survey did show momentum moving in Santorum’s direction at the last minute. Another last minute poll from Mitchell Research/Rosetta Stone shows Romney taking a slight lead in a race which could go either way.
In what might be a sign that Romney’s internal polls are not going well, Romney is talking about the possibility of a Santorum victory:
Battling for his critical home state of Michigan on Tuesday, Mitt Romney accused Republican rival Rick Santorum of trying to “kidnap our primary process” by getting Democrats to tip the very tight race in favor of Pennsylvania’s former senator.
Flanked by volunteers at his campaign headquarters, Romney conceded that — as recent polls suggest — Santorum might win, and he pointed to his rival’s robo-calls encouraging Democratic crossover voters to turn out in the open primary.
“I think the hardest thing about predicting what’s going to happen today is whether Senator Santorum’s effort to call Democrat households and tell them to come out and vote against Mitt Romney is going to be successful or not. I think Republicans have to recognize there’s a real effort to kidnap our primary process. And if we want Republicans to nominate the Republican who takes on Barack Obama, I need Republicans to get out and vote and say ‘no’ to the dirty tricks of a desperate campaign,” the former Massachusetts governor said.
This is yet another flip-flop for Romney who has admitted to crossing over to vote in a past Democratic primary for strategic reasons:
ABC News’ Jonathan Greenberger Reports: Republican presidential candididate Mitt Romney offered a new explanation today for why he supported a Democrat in 1992.
That year, Romney, then a registered independent, voted for former Sen. Paul Tsongas in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary. He told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, in an interview that will air Sunday on “This Week,” that his vote was meant as a tactical maneuver aimed at finding the weakest opponent for incumbent President George H.W. Bush.
“In Massachusetts, if you register as an independent, you can vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary,” said Romney, who until he made an unsuccessful run for Senate in 1994 had spent his adult life as a registered independent. “When there was no real contest in the Republican primary, I’d vote in the Democrat primary, vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponent for the Republican.”
It would be devastating for the Republicans should Romney lose. Matthew Dowd raised the possibility of Republicans looking for another candidate:
“If Rick Santorum wins tonight it’s the equivalent of a 9.0 on a Richter scale. I mean it is going to shake Washington, it’s going to shake Republican establishment it’s just going to shake things to their very core,” Dowd told me. “And I think what you’re going to see are the conversations that have been going on behind quiet doors saying we need another candidate in this race.”
It is possible that GOP leaders could fudge the rules, which are vague as to the commitment of delegates to a candidate, to enable another candidate to win. Should they do this, I wonder how many unhappy supporters of the current candidates will feel betrayed by the party and stay home or vote Democratic. Keep in mind how angry many of the PUMA’s were about the defeat of Hillary Clinton, which was done fairly under party rules. Resentment could be even greater if party leaders alter rules to help a new candidate. Even should Romney win, the fact that Santorum has posed such a challenge to Romney has highlighted his weaknesses. Should Romney win narrowly, it might be important as to whether the media presents this as a win for Romney or a close win where Romney looked weak and failed to meet earlier expectations.
I doubt that Michigan would have voted Republican in the general election, but the state had been listed as a battle ground state. Dowd says this is no longer the case:
Ten days ago, Michigan was a major battleground state for the general election, Mitt Romney was looking to reconnect with the middle class in his home state, and Rick Santorum was gaining momentum after three big wins and looking at maybe becoming the first Catholic nominated by the Republican party. The Obama campaign was so concerned about Michigan being in play for the fall that it brought President Obama there to give a major speech and made plans to spend valuable ad dollars in the state.
But that was then.
Now, after the Romney and Santorum campaigns, Michigan is likely off the fall map of battleground states. It looks again reliably Democratic – not because of anything the Obama team has done, but because of the nature of the contest between Romney and Santorum, which has alienated many independent voters and created a tremendous divide. This isn’t a good sign as the Republican nomination contest moves into other battleground states like Ohio next week.