Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Michigan & Arizona Results Liveblog

5:30 PM-

We're starting to get results from Michigan now, and Rick Santorum has a very early lead. However, note that Oakland County (upper middle class & wealthy northwestern Detroit suburbs) and a few rural counties are just starting to report.

So far, we've seen plenty of spin on how much a win or loss means for Mitt Romney's campaign going forward. However, some seem to forget that Michigan's Republican primary was considered a "gimme" for Romney just a month ago.

A native son of Michigan, where his father served as governor, Romney’s facing high expectations about his ability to beat former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who’s directly challenged him with message focusing on the middle class and a manufacturing revival.

Romney had been expected to easily win here until Santorum upset the former Massachusetts governor in a trio of nominating contests earlier this month. If momentum carries Santorum to victory on Tuesday in Michigan, it would put Romney’s campaign – long considered the favorite among Republicans seeking the nomination – on precarious political footing.

“I think it’s going to be an embarrassment if he does lose. I don’t think it looks good when you win in your home state, but I’m hopeful that he’ll pull it out,” said Julie Wells, a teacher from Birmingham who intends to vote for Romney, at a rally Monday evening in this Detroit suburb.

This really goes to show how volatile the G-O-TEA primary season has become. And it goes to show how hard it's been for Romney to "seal the deal", despite all the media proclamations of Romney being "the presumptive nominee". Perhaps the media pundits really do assume too much?

5:45 PM-

As more results trickle in, we're starting to get a better sense of what's happening in the state. Now this is still early, so everything can change in the next hour. But at least for now, Mitt Romney is leading in Oakland County while Rick Santorum is building a healthy lead in the Grand Rapids area and the Upper Peninsula. Romney is expected to do well in the upscale Detroit suburbs, and Santorum is expected to do well in the Upper Peninsula, but Grand Rapids was expected to be a key swing region. Is this an important tea leaf for tonight?

6:00 PM-

OK, so we get how important Michigan is... So will our next door neighbor finally get some media love tonight? Probably not, since Arizona is about to join us and New Hampshire in "The Foregone Conclusion Club". Still, there may be some analysis on just how high Romney can run up the score. But if Romney somehow gets under 40% in Arizona tonight, there may be even more questions as to if the G-O-TEA base will ever really "be into him".

OK, Romney was just declared the winner in Arizona... But again, we'll have to see how high he runs up the score... And if it's enough to make up for a possible loss in Michigan.

6:15 PM-

So far, NBC News' exit poll suggests Mitt Romney is about to eek out a 3% win in Michigan tonight... So game over? Not quite. Look at the map. Will Romney's strength in the Detroit area be enough to overcome his weakness virtually everywhere else? We'll have to wait and see.

6:30 PM-

Here's TPM with the rundown on what looks to be a possible 2-for-2 night for Romney. Of course his campaign will spin it as good news... But is it?

His win in Arizona was not without its potential costs in the general election. Romney further tacked right on immigration, calling Arizona’s tough law a “model” for the nation in an Arizona debate and accepting an endorsement from the governor who signed it, Jan Brewer. Democrats are hoping that Romney’s continued embrace of a crackdown on undocumented immigrants will help motivate Hispanic voters to turn out in droves for President Obama, potentially putting Arizona in play as a swing state.

It’s for that reason that those delegates might seem little consolation. The main focus of the fight is in Michigan: it’s where both candidates will deliver their speeches tonight. The reason: in many pundits’ eyes this isn’t even a battle he should be having in the first place. This is Romney’s home state; he was born here, his father was governor here, and Romney beat John McCain handily here only four years ago.

Now, though, he’s in a lose-lose situation. Should he lose his birth state to Santorum, then even his close allies admit this could upend his campaign. Romney made something of a preemptive strike on this in an interview with Fox News. He told his hosts that it would be more significant if he “was turned down by Massachusetts” - the state he had lived in for forty years. He also slammed any talk of a brokered convention or of himself slipping out of the fight, framing the race as a drawn-out battle of attrition that was all about the delegates.

It’s the issue of the delegates that make up the next part of the lose-lose scenario for Romney. Because of Michigan’s allocation of delegates by district, he could actually come out of tonight a close second and yet actually have more on hand than Santorum. However, even if he were to win by a slim margin, it’s possible the media will join in the framing that this is still a loss: that the mere fact he’s having such a close contest in his birth state is an intrinsic sign of his weakness as a candidate.

Mittens keeps trying and trying and trying to win over those darned teabaggers with even more radical right rhetoric. Yet with each new flip-flop and "arrogant 1% moment" and "inauthentic moment of blue collar pander", Romney keeps digging himself into a deeper electoral hole. Should he emerge as the Republican nominee, the G-O-TEA may still be in deep doo-doo come November.

6:50 PM-

Dave Weigel posted this and this on Twitter.

daveweigel ‏ @daveweigel Close
This primary will END the RACE. Just like NH did. And SC did. And FL did. And... #MIprimary

6:36 PM - 28 Feb 12 via TweetDeck · Details

daveweigel ‏ @daveweigel
BREAKING: In a couple of days Romney will lose a bunch of primaries to Santorum anyway. #MIprimary

6:36 PM - 28 Feb 12 via TweetDeck · Details

I suspect we'll soon see the Romney campaign declare "VICTORY!" at some point within the next 40 minutes. However, this won't end G-O-TEA primary season. Oh no, I suspect we'll be back here next week to liveblog "SUPER DUPER TUESDAY!!!" It's really about this.

There are 59 delegates up for grabs in Michigan and Arizona Tuesday, but the delegate count is being overshadowed by the nail-biter race in Michigan where Romney could lose the state he grew up in. The outcome in Michigan has taken on an outsized, symbolic importance that will dictate the mood heading into Super Tuesday next week.

In a way, no matter the outcome in Michigan, the damage to Mitt Romney’s campaign is already done. No one knows who will win Michigan tonight, but the fact that it will be incredibly close has weakened Romney’s campaign by underscoring his enduring problems connecting with working class and evangelical voters. This was supposed to be an easy state for Romney, who took it by ten points in 2008’s primary and has outspent Santorum there this time by 2 to 1. Even headlines like Romney barely wins home state will not be doing him any favors. In the same way, as both Republicans and Democrats have commented, Rick Santorum may lose Michigan, but in a sense he’s already won by coming this close.

And now, Santorum has a chance to win outright in Ohio and Tennessee and Oklahoma. As long as Mittens continues to play footsie with teabaggers, and as long as teabaggers continue to play hard to get while flirting with Santorum, this primary fight will go on... And President Obama keeps looking better and better and better. ;-)

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