Well, today’s the day for Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Michigan and Arizona vote today in the GOP Primary that keeps on giving — to President Obama. I’m somewhat wary of making bold pronouncements like “this is the most important day thus far in this primary battle,” but, well, this probably is the most important day thus far in this primary battle.
Or maybe not. Look, I’ve been proceeding this entire time under the assumption that Mitt Romney is the only candidate who can actually win this thing. No one else can raise the money and no one else has anything close to the organization that Romney has. It’s almost like he’s been doing this for six straight years or something. Ahem.
So even when Gingrich won in South Carolina (and doesn’t that seem like a long time ago) and everyone was freaking out, I never really believed that Romney wouldn’t win. And then Romney was able to reverse a double-digit Gingrich polling lead in Florida in a pretty short time and win easily there. (If you can call outspending your opponents by a zillion-to-one easy, that is.)
But then you had the Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri contests three weeks ago and Santorum swept them. Two of those states, Colorado and Minnesota, had been won easily by Romney four years ago. And then early polling out of Michigan put Santorum up by a touchdown or more and, well, Mr. Inevitable doesn’t seem so inevitable anymore.
But just like Romney’s machine went after Gingrich in Florida, it started attacking Santorum in Michigan. And Santorum doesn’t help himself out either. Bono, who worked closely with Santorum on stopping AIDS in Africa, said this about him:
I would suggest that Rick Santorum has a kind of Tourette’s disease; he will always say the most unpopular thing. But on our issues, he has been a defender of the most vulnerable.
So you have Santorum out there talking about how contraception is “not okay” and how one of John Kennedy’s most famous and admired speeches made him want to vomit.
The feeling in the punditocracy is that Romney must win Michigan. Again, I’m wary of any of these definitive breathless statements that so-called experts make as they are trying to convince people to pay attention to their coverage of the horserace. They have an interest in promoting the drama behind the race, that is at odds with their interest to provide objective analysis. I still don’t see how anyone but Romney wins this.
According to Jonathan Karl at ABC, a prominent (yet anonymous? hmmm.) GOP Senator said, “If Romney loses Michigan, we need a new candidate.” This bravely anonymous GOP Senator went on to say that if Romney loses, he will publicly call for someone else to get into the race. Support Santorum? Hahaha. No.
The prospect of a drawn out race and Republicans in disarray, and perhaps a brokered convention, has inspired Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas to launch “Operation Hilarity,” inspired by Rush Limbaugh’s failed “Operation Chaos” from four years ago. Its stated goal is to just keep this clown show going for as long as possible, and the way to do that? Kos is urging Democrats in Michigan to vote for Rick Santorum in the open GOP primary today.
This has caused a bit of hand-wringing in the liberal blogosphere, about whether Democrats should stoop to the same level as Rush Limbaugh to try to muck up the GOP primary.
When I first heard about the strategy, I was against it, but not because of any sense that it was wrong to follow the rules that the GOP uses in some states. I just thought it was a bad strategic move, since at the time, it looked like Santorum was going to win anyway. If he’s going to win, why give Romney the opportunity to look like a victim?
But now it’s close. Really close. As of this writing, Nate Silver has the race projected as a tie, with both Santorum and Romney having a 50% chance of winning. (Note: I wrote that last night. By this morning, the projection had shifted to favoring Romney at 55%.) So it is actually conceivable that Michigan Democrats could give Santorum a victory today.
Sensing this, the Santorum campaign has crafted this pitch to Michigan Democrats:
And the Romney campaign has called foul:
It is outrageous that Rick Santorum is inviting Democrats into the Republican primary to vote against Mitt Romney. Rick Santorum has moved beyond just ‘taking one for the team,’ he is now willing to wear the other team’s jersey if he thinks it will get him more votes. We believe that Republicans will decide who wins Michigan – and we are confident that will be Mitt Romney.
This is yet another reason that I dislike Mitt Romney. He has forced me to defend Rick Santorum. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Rick Santorum making a pitch to Democratic voters. Ronald Reagan won his huge victories because he convinced “Reagan Democrats” to vote for him, and if Santorum wants to win against Obama, it is obvious he would have to do the same. Inviting those presumed Santorum Democrats (that was tough to type) to vote for him in a perfectly legal primary is not outrageous. It’s good politics.
Most Democrats I know (despite inuyesta’s excellent post about who we should be rooting for) will be rooting for Rick Santorum to defeat Mitt Romney today in Michigan, and hoping for the GOP freakout to follow. I guess I will too, given my own thoughts on the matter.
But honestly, despite the ABC News reporting from anonymous GOP Senators, and breathless reporting by pundits telling us this is the most important primary ever, I still kind of think Romney really is inevitable, despite being a horribly unlikable candidate, and this probably will be just another speed bump on his way to Tampa, and ultimately losing in November.