The Republican primary circ… er-r-r, election continues. Tuesday, February 28, is the magic day for Michigan and Arizona. A poll taken today (Monday) indicates a possible lead swap putting Santorum back ahead of Romney, but statistically in a dead heat.
Two weeks ago, Rick Santorum abruptly shot to the head of the Michigan primary pack by as much as 14 or 15 points. Ever since that poll, Mitt Romney has targeted Santorum to the exclusion of all else… because it was in Michigan, Mitt’s boyhood home that the unexpected reversal occurred. These weren’t just Republican voters… these were Michigan voters.
On this day before the vote, the two are swapping positions at the front of the race. Each holds pride of place in at least one poll, and there is no election ‘expert’ willing to call this one. Despite it being Romney’s ‘home state,’ Michigan has not been an easy slog for him. Moreover, the demographics of the polls are a little odd.
Santorum is Catholic, but his fundamentalist religious beliefs, particularly about women, birth control and abortion, have attracted evangelicals and turned off Catholics – Catholic women in particular. On the other hand, Romney, a devout Mormon (a generally fundamentalist and very evangelistic religion) has attracted Catholics but has found little succor in the ranks of the evangelistic/fundamentalist Christian community.
If Romney loses the Michigan Republican primary, he may lose significant support in the GOP hierarchy. To lose one’s own home state in a primary election to a candidate who was nowhere in the race the month before would be devastating. Even were he to barely win, Romney would fall far short of earlier expectations.
Arizona? Nobody seems to care that Romney has a 20+ point lead in Arizona… not even Romney. He’ll take Arizona Tuesday, but if Santorum takes Michigan, and he bids fair to take Ohio as well, Romney may well find himself watching the GOP powers-that-be searching for a last-minute replacement… because they don’t want Santorum. They consider his religious and other social view to make him unelectable against Obama.