Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Post Michigan Hangover

Last night Romney survived his near-death Michigan experience and Santorum is no longer the force of nature he seemed to be after his 3-state upset. What's the situation?

From Politico:

  • A win-is-a-win. Hey, Romney won. He's back.
  • Santorum really ought to have locked it up, huh? Oh and he probably damaged himself in the process of not-winning (his I almost puked at the JFK speech comments and the college-snobs thing). Plus, if he's just the candidate of the far right he's not going to be Mr. Popular in the general (like this is news?) and then the Democrat robo-call thing? That's not going to endear him to the base, is it?
  • If Romney wins Ohio it might be Santorum's waterloo (Santorum is very popular there--but Romney's going to have a go at it)
  • What's Newt doing--other than Georgia?
  • Ron Paul is seen as a Romney surrogate (hardest hit: Ron Paul true believers!)
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.

Talking Points Memo (Democratic) says:
But while Romney might be two steps closer to Tampa, he’s not anywhere near out of the woods. The campaign now takes a dangerous turn for his camp — to the South.
Super Tuesday is a smaller affair this cycle than last. Much smaller, actually — California, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York were huge anchors of the 23 Democratic contests and 21 on the Republican side. Next week eleven states will hold their GOP votes, among them the Ohio, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Massachusetts primaries as the major sources of delegates, along with caucuses in Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
...Polling at the moment shows problems for Romney everywhere. The biggest fight looks to be over Ohio and its 66 delegates (1144 are needed to secure the nomination), where Romney has been in a more traditional fight by 2012 cycle standards, the former governor unable shake the various GOP flavors of the month.

CNN shows Santorum's No-One-Is-Excited-About-Mitt-Romney mailer:
'No one's excited about Mitt Romney,' pro-Santorum mailer declares
(look at that Rick-Santorum-Smile! Who thinks that looks good!?)

What Do I Think?
Right now Newt Gingrich holds the lead in Super-Pac money spent against him at $17,944,586 (almost all of that Florida). Santorum comes in next at $8,091,692. The question in my mind is this: does Team Romney think they won--and can continue winning--by doing what they are doing? Or do they see a real threat in either (a) Santorum or (b) a combination of Santorum and Romney resulting in a brokered convention? If the latter does Romney's messaging on attack change? Swing to social issues? Focus on gaffes?

If they do, what's their response? Certainly the big blue states (New York, California, and so on) are more likely to go to Romney than Santorum so Mitt could just decide to wait it out, take a few more hits in Super Tuesday, and let "nature take its course"--but that's easy for me to say. I doubt Mitt Romney is so sanguine.

I also want to know what Santorum supporters will make of the surge in Democratic support which will probably not go away after Michigan. Rationalizing Democratic activists wanting your candidate to win can't be comfortable--what does this do to the narrative that Rick Santorum is a giant-killer on social issues?

Then there's Newt. Gingrich now has a ton of money (but no one is saying how much) and Newt has been re-running his "positive" campaign saying that he has "energy solutions" and Americans should be paying 2.50/gal of gas. I want to know how long that's going to last. Gingrich does attack better than anyone else (followed by Ron Paul). Now that he's reloaded is he going to open fire?

Finally there's the question as to whether Romney's play in Michigan, which some people called "winning ugly" will actually hurt him. For one thing, he made a bunch of gaffes including this:
You know, it's very easy to excite the base with incendiary comments. We've seen throughout the campaign if you're willing to say really outrageous things that are accusative, attacking of President Obama, that you're going to jump up in the polls. I'm not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support. I am who I am.
Which prompted a Weekly Standard Article on Romney's "Low Opinion of the Base." Guys? I think it's mutual. Certainly Romney made a string of gaffes which even he said hurt him. Is there going to be any long term fallout from that? I think the smart money says that hey, he won--he's going to keep winning and you better get used to him. What if that's not true though? What if Super Tuesday is a resounding defeat for him? That'll be something to watch.

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