The primaries in Michigan and Arizona left the GOP nomination battle at pretty much the same place it has been in for the past few weeks. Mitt Romney still is the most likely nominee but questions about him remain. The victory was probably enough to silence talk of bringing in a new candidate, at least until we see the Super Tuesday results, but not enough to keep Romney from still looking weak. This football analogy from First Read is quite accurate:
If this were college football, last night’s Michigan contest was akin to the No.2-ranked team in the country winning on a last-second field goal (the score 41-38) against an unranked opponent at home, on Homecoming. That No. 2 team survives, gets to regroup, and keeps its championship hopes alive. But the way it won — UGLY — despite all of its advantages raises doubts among the sports writers and even fans about its chances against the No. 1 team. Then again, the goal is to make it to the BCS game and see what happens. And Romney essentially did that by winning in Michigan last night.
I think that it is also notable that if New Gingrich, who didn’t campaign in Michigan, wasn’t on the ballot, Santorum might have scored another touchdown and had the victory.
As with virtually every other Republican event this year, Barack Obama was again the winner. It is hard to see a Republican winning in Michigan after all the repetitions of their opposition to the auto bail out. No matter how Romney tries to spin his previous views and rewrite history, a majority of voters in Michigan realize that failing to bail out General Motors would have been devastating to the state’s economy. Joe Biden’s pitch that bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive will be effective in Michigan, and beyond.
Now its time for Mitt Romney to tie his dog to the roof of his car and move onto new states (or at least this might be the case if the dog hadn’t run away and had an exceptionally long life). He has the money and organization to probably win more delegates that Santorum, aided by problems for Santorum such as not being on every ballot, but he remains in danger if Santorum can regain his momentum next week. At present Santorum leads Romney by eleven points in Ohio. Santorum might be forgiven for losing a big lead in Michigan due to Romney’s advantages in the state. If Romney can repeat his Michigan come back in Ohio, and otherwise do well next week, he will probably be unbeatable. The way this race has been going, it is not hard to see Romney making another error to keep Santorum in the race.
Update: CNN projects that Romney and Santorum will split Michigan’s delegates equally. Santorum calls it a tie.