Presidential Politics: Michigan and Arizona

Dear Reader,

The Politico summarized yesterday's results very clearly: "Mitt Romney wins ugly."  In Michigan, the score: Romney 41.1%, Santorum 37.9%, Paul 11.6%, and Gingrich 6.5%.  In Arizona, the score: Romney 47.3%, Santorum 26.6%, Gingrich 16.2%, Paul 8.4%.  Arizona is "winner take all," so Romney got all of the delegates from that state.  While they both are Romney "victories," Santorum is calling Michigan a victory as well; in the delegate count, it was a tie, with Romney and Santorum each earning 15 delegates because they are apportioned by Congressional District.  (More on that: The Hill - and a very interesting, and detailed, discussion from The Detroit News).

There will be several enduring controversies from the Michigan primary.  One will be the role of Democrats in the Republican race.  Santorum organized robo-calls of Democratic voters, encouraging them to vote for him in the primary. 

Early in the day, there was "very little evidence" that Democrats heeded his call:

She did say that she'd seen very little evidence of Democratic voters choosing to crossover into the Republican primary. Some of the Santorum-backed robocalls aimed at turning out Democrats for Santorum were reported in the area. Davis, a Democrat, said she received a couple herself.

Davis said she hadn't voted yet, but was disinclined to make mischief.

One of the aspects of this situation that seemed particularly odd is that Santorum previously had commented unfavorably on Democrats in Republican Primaries:

"We want the activists of the party, the people who make up the backbone of the Republican Party to have a say in who our nominee is as opposed to a bunch of people who don't even identify themselves as Republicans picking our nominee," Santorum told voters on the call held January 29. "I don't like that. I believe that states should only allow Republicans to vote in Republican primaries."

In stark contrast to his campaign's more recent courtship of Democrats, in January Santorum told Democrats that if they wanted to vote for a Republican, they should switch their party affiliation.

"It's the Republican nomination, not the independent nomination or the Democratic nomination," he said on the call. "If you're a Democrat and you want to be a Democrat, then vote in the Democratic primary, not the Republican. If you want to vote in the Republican Party then become one."

At the time, Santorum's main criticism was of Romney's success in the New Hampshire primary, where 53% of Republican primary participants did not identify themselves as Republicans. In the weeks following Romney's win in the Granite State, Santorum repeatedly cited that statistic in arguing that his rival's supporters was out of step with the mainstream GOP electorate. Now Santorum is hoping non-Republicans will help give him the edge in Romney's home state.

The strategy of encouraging crossover voters appeared to have worked in the 2010 race for governor in Michigan, so this was not an idea out of nowhere.  The problem is that it is an idea "out of left field," in the sense that typically this is considered a more effective strategy for centrist candidates rather than more right-wing Republicans.  The conventional wisdom is that Romney is "less conservative" than Santorum; if anything, Romney should have appealed to Democrats.  In any case, I suspect that eventually the Santorum campaign will view asking for Democratic support as a mistake.  THey had little to gain; if they won with with the support of Democrats that support might have cheapened the victory.  Asking for it undermines one of his better arguments against Romney: the "flip-flopper."  Many news outlets carried the line that Santorum opposed Democrats voting in primaries before he supported it. 

Santorum, for better or worse, was really the star in Michigan.  He provoked the most controversy and dominated the headlines - some good, some bad.  The LA Times noted some of the controversies: link here.  Some other interesting pieces went around the internet ahead of the election.  One of those was an old description about lobbying in Washington that featured Santorum. 

Santorum:

Last year retribution was taken against the Motion Picture Association of America, which—after first approaching without success a Republican congressman about to retire—hired as its new head Dan Glickman, a former Democratic representative from Kansas and secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration. Republicans had warned the MPAA not to hire a Democrat for the job. After Glickman was hired, House Republicans removed from a pending bill some $1.5 billion in tax relief for the motion picture industry. Norquist told me, “No other industry is interested in taking a $1.5 billion hit to hire a Clinton friend.” After Glickman was selected, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported last year, “Santorum has begun discussing what the consequences are for the movie industry.” Norquist said publicly that the appointment of Glickman was “a studied insult” and the motion picture industry’s “ability to work with the House and the Senate is greatly reduced.” Glickman responded by hiring prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s former spokesman, for major MPAA jobs.

Mitt Romney, in contrast, had a fairly typical week on the Romney campaign trail.  He made some mistakes.  He reminded everyone that he isn't a regular guy by mentioning the "several" cars he owns.  Nothing particularly new came to light; by now, he's probably faced all of the attacks his opponents can dig up with the skeletons in the closet.  By now, everyone knows he is rich.  This will not come as a surprise to anyone.

As a consequence, one point of view is expressed in this editorial: The Winner is - President Obama.

Romney ended the Michigan campaign as the patrician whose buddies are the owners of NASCAR teams. Santorum is the religious firebrand who picked a fight with John F. Kennedy over separation of church and state. The result? Neither of the two did themselves a favor in Michigan.

Nevertheless, Santorum is just continuing on ahead.  Santorum's "Morning After" response (by email, though a Tea Party group):

(From "Liberty News Reports" - alert@grassrootsaction.com)

Dear Patriot,

We just gave Mitt Romney the fight of his life in his home state and now we are in for a long, important battle to the Convention. But before I get to that, I just have to pause and tell you a story about my grandfather...

 Santorum isn't giving up yet.  Some reports also show Gingrich reappearing on the voters' radar; he hasn't give up yet either.  The "conventional wisdom" is that Gingrich has to win Georgia and do well elsewhere and that Santorum has to win in Ohio for the race to really continue beyond 'Super Tuesday.'

--- Stag Staff

PS.  As a footnote, it is worth pointing out that the Michigan presidential primary has a particularly eventful history.  See here.

PPS.  Did anyone else notice that Romney's Arizona victory was a complete afterthought?  More on it: here.  On the day, Romney got 29 delegates from Arizona and 15 from Michigan.  Santorum got 15 from Michigan as well (or, so it seems for now).  That is, at the end of the day, the overall score was Romney 44, Santorum 15. 

For previous coverage, see: