David and Goliath in Michigan

What is going to happen in Michigan? I hear this question a lot these days. Tomorrow, the primary is being held. The latest polls show Mitt Romney in the lead over Rick Santorum by 2%, which lies within the margin of error. In other words, it would appear to be a dead heat.

Michigan is Romney’s home state. He was born here. He grew up here. His father was Governor. His mother ran for the Senate here. He ought to have an edge.

Michigan is also a blue-collar state. There are lots of Catholics and lots of evangelicals in Michigan. Rick Santorum ought to have considerable strength, and he clearly does.

Romney has a financial advantage. I do not have a working television set. I have only an old beat-up set suitable for watching movies on DVD. So I have not seen the television advertisements. Moreover, I do not listen much to the radio. My commute lasts about six minutes, and I spend my free time reading. So I have not heard the radio advertisements.

We have received robocalls from both sides. Romney’s outnumber those of Santorum by about three-to-one, and they are all negative. Whether this will matter I do not know. It might backfire.

In 2008, Romney embraced the Right. He did the rounds on the conservative talk shows; he made himself available for interviews by the folks at National Review. This year, he has kept the Right at arm’s length. He has avoided conservative talk radio; he has stayed away from folks at National Review who are favorable to his cause. He has treated the Tea-Party like a settlement of lepers.

This week, in Michigan, however, Romney spoke to a coalition of Tea-Party groups. And in his speech he denounced the auto-bailout and slammed the United Auto Workers. This drew criticism from the UAW, which held a counter-rally on a rooftop across the street from one of his rallies.

I presume that Romney did what he did in a bid to pry some Tea-Partiers loose from Santorum. Whether this will happen I am unsure. But I would not be surprised if it were to draw some stalwart members of the UAW to the polls to vote for Santorum. Michigan has an open primary — and wild things have happened in the past. I remember George Wallace winning the Democratic Presidential primary in the state.

Who will win here? It depends in the end on turnout. Intensity matters. My guess is not worth much. I have been a Michigander for fewer than five years (I could tell you about Oklahoma, however). I will nonetheless offer my guess.

I think that Santorum will win. He has a better ground game than does Romney. Remember what happened in Iowa, Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota. Santorum is, in fact, a much more experienced politician. He has won a number of races and lost one, and Michigan is a lot like Pennsylvania — whence he hails. The polls do not tell you who will show up. My sense is that Santorum’s admirers like him a lot more than Romney’s admirers like him. Without any help from the UAW, I think that he would win. With its help, if he gets it, he may win by an impressive margin.

But who knows? In the meantime, there is freezing rain predicted for Tuesday night and Wednesday. The last time we had freezing rain there were people in Hillsdale who were without power for a week. We might not know the results for a while.

TUESDAY MORNING UPDATE: I now suspect that Romney may also be also be quietly fishing for Democratic votes — albeit of a non-working class sort. Whey would he be saturating Ann Arbor with robocalls (as is reported by Ricochet’s correspondent in that fair city)? There are wheels within wheels.

In the meantime, the polls are all over the place. PPP had Romney up 2% yesterday; it has Santorum up 1% today. Mitchell/Rosetta Stone had Santorum up 1% yesterday; it has Romney up 1% today. Rasmussen had Romney up 2% yesterday and has not reported today. Go figure!

In Hillsdale, it is bright, sunny, and cold. Tonight we are supposed to have freezing rain.

  1. Mel Foil

    I think the next President, no matter who it is, is going to be among the most unpopular presidents ever. In Obama’s case, for continued incompetence and ideological stubbornness, or in the case of a competent Republican, for creating the more temporary pain of major budget surgery. Either way, lots of pain. Some Michigan Catholics might think, “let the Mormons have this one.”

  2. Douglas

    I think Romney takes it, simply because the conservative media has gone all out to clear the way for him. The undercurrent of stories in most conservative outlets has been pretty clear: we can’t let this religious nut threaten the one guy we’ve placed all our hopes on.

    I’d be absolutely delighted if Santorum won Michigan, but I don’t think powerful people are going to let that happen. The last three states were a wakeup call, and Romney is going to spend as much as necessary… get all the assists from right wing media… to win. Hope I’m wrong, but that’s what I think happens now.

  3. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Douglas: I think Romney takes it, simply because the conservative media has gone all out to clear the way for him. The undercurrent of stories in most conservative outlets has been pretty clear: we can’t let this religious nut threaten the one guy we’ve placed all our hopes on. · 8 minutes ago

    True, but not entirely true. The Weekly Standard ran a piece on Romney and the Catholic hospitals in Michigan that suggested that he was not entirely truthful in the last debate. National Review Online ran an account of his stand on illegal immigration that suggested pure opportunism as a motive.

  4. Sandy

    Am I wrong to be slightly encouraged by Romney’s slamming the UAW (in order to court the Tea Party) , despite the fact that his position might lead even more UAW members to vote for Santorum?  Pitiful, maybe, but sometimes one feels the need to hang on even to opportunism if it’s going in the right direction.

  5. katievs

    Today, I’m wishing I still lived in Michigan, so I could vote with both hands for Santorum, whom I admire more and more.

    He’s got his weaknesses, but his strengths are real strengths.  Rare ones.

    I so hope he prevails!

  6. Austin Arnold

    Paul, 

    You mention accurately that Romney has not embraced the Tea Party crowd. Looking at the big picture this is interesting given the past four years of elections:

    -McCain runs as a “maverick-moderate,” and loses badly to the Obama machine in ’08. 

    -The Tea Party rallies against the Obama administration and bludgeons the Democrats in ’10. 

    My point is that we now know the antidote needed to remove Obama from the white house this November, and that is unapologetic conservatism. Santorum gets this, and that’s why he is producing more than Romney with less resources. 

  7. Lamont Cranston

    Prof. Rahe–

    How influential in Michigan politics are the not-quite-governmental organizations? (NQGO[tm])

    When the national media pronounces opinions on Pennsylvania politics, they talk in terms of Democrats and Republicans. They might talk about suburbs, and show tape of a well-to-do white from the Main Line; or talk about “blue collar” and show b-roll of Joe Biden in Scranton. 

    They never mention the fire companies, the ambulance companies, the sportsmens clubs, or other civic groups. Groups that are not government agencies, but perform functions that big-city journalists expect to be handled by City Hall.  

    Those groups are hugely influential in public life–and they are hugely influential in politics. But they are completely unseen in political coverage. 

    Case in point: during the 2004 Bush-Kerry campaign, Dick Cheney came to speak at the local high school. John Kerry had just been on TV  with ads talking about hunting. Cheney–before he even began his speech–said, “did you see that ad? Did you see the creases in his brand-new cammo?”

    The crowd erupted in laughter. That ad, or commentary about it, “went viral” among the sportsmens clubs, who probably went 95% for Bush.

  8. Lamont Cranston

    Cont’d from #7:

    The reason I ask is that I’d think the NQGOs would favor Santorum. First–ideologically: they are overwhelmingly church-goin’ folk; they are not the country club set.

    But second, because Santorum is extremely experienced in Pennsylvania politics, and has to (by virtue of his lack of big money) had to run a hands-on campaign. So I’d think he’d instinctively look to the NQGOs to back his candidacy. The NQGOs have always been how Republicans win in Pennsylvania, despite a 45/55 registration disadvantage. 

    If the NQGOs are a big deal in Michigan and Ohio, Santorum may surprise a lot of people.

  9. Gus Marvinson

    Romney has to go all out in Michigan. If he loses his father’s state things could go very badly for him going forward. A close win isn’t much better, which is why I’m surprised the Romney campaign hasn’t tried harder to manage expectations. I’ve been a bit isolated from the news lately, so maybe I’ve simply missed the campaign spin in that regard.

  10. David Williamson
    katievs: 

    I so hope he prevails! 

    I hope so, too – Mr Santorum’s  chances are not so good in my state of AZ.

    Bill Krystal is optimistic about Michigan, also.

    Mr Santorum’s economic plan, as outlined in today’s WSJ, is much better than Mr Romney’s “progressive” tax plan.

    Oh, well, we shall see.

  11. Gus Marvinson
    katievs: Today, I’m wishing I still lived in Michigan, so I could vote with both hands for Santorum, whom I admire more and more.

    He’s got his weaknesses, but his strengths are real strengths.  Rare ones.

    I so hope he prevails! · 12 minutes ago

    Did you see this discussion Santorum and Gingrich had on the Constitutional issues? It’s from November in New Hampshire and long before the Santorum surged. Santorum did a fine job here. It’s worth checking out if you haven’t seen it.

  12. The King Prawn
    Gus Marvinson: Romney has to go all out in Michigan.

    That’s been true of every state since Iowa. It’s odd that a presumptive nominee has to work so hard and spend so much to become the actual nominee.

  13. Gus Marvinson
    The King Prawn

    Gus Marvinson: Romney has to go all out in Michigan.

    That’s been true of every state since Iowa. It’s odd that a presumptive nominee has to work so hard and spend so much to become the actual nominee. · 2 minutes ago

    Curious, ain’t it?

  14. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Sandy: Am I wrong to be slightly encouraged by Romney’s slamming the UAW (in order to court the Tea Party) , despite the fact that his position might lead even more UAW members to vote for Santorum?  Pitiful, maybe, but sometimes one feels the need to hang on even to opportunism if it’s going in the right direction. · 36 minutes ago

    I agree — and let me say that Romney’s stance is in keeping with his perspective as a former CEO. What Obama did in the auto-bailout was to defraud the creditors. It makes one wary about buying bonds.

  15. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    John Murdoch: Prof. Rahe–

    How influential in Michigan politics are the not-quite-governmental organizations? (NQGO[tm]) · 27 minutes ago

    Your larger point is interesting and compelling, and I am grateful that you made it. My answer is that I must plead ignorance. I do not have the feel for Michigan that I have for Oklahoma, and my inability to answer your perfectly sensible question is indicative of my ignorance.

  16. Daniel Sattelberger

    Two things:

    1. Gingrich: His SuperPAC has been running ads.  The only ad I’ve seen, which seems to be running frequently, as far as I can remember doesn’t mention any of the candidates by name but casts a Tea Party conservative against an establishment moderate – Romney.  The only way I figured out it was a Gingrich ad was that they mentioned his SuperPAC at the end.  A moderately informed voter could easily put Santorum in the role of the true conservative.

    2. A new poll out from USA Today shows Santorum running better than Romney against Obama in both swing states and nationally.  This could take away some of Romney’s support, as it sort of takes away Romney’s electability argument; at least enough to potentially put Santorum over the top.
  17. liberal jim
    Gus Marvinson

    katievs: 

    Did you see this discussion Santorum and Gingrich had on the Constitutional issues? It’s from November in New Hampshire and long before the Santorum surged. Santorum did a fine job here. It’s worth checking out if you haven’t seen it. · 5 minutes ago

    Edited 3 minutes ago

    It seemed to me from the discussion that Santorum does not have a clue.  He uses the oft repeated, by him and others, phrase of “returning” responsibility for various programs to the states.  Where in the Constitution does he find the authority to do this?  Santorum is a good conservative, but first and foremost he is a party man and his party won’t let him have the nomination. Dosen’t he know abortion and other social issues are planks in the platform that aren’t meant to be taken seriously. At least Newt seems to recognize anyone hoping to take on DC will need a ground swell of support to do so and the GOP establishment won’t provide it.   Unfortunately no one in the GOP primary is likely to get it.

  18. Leporello
    Liberal Jim:  It seemed to me from the discussion that Santorum does not have a clue.  He uses the oft repeated, by him and others, phrase of “returning” responsibility for various programs to the states.  Where in the Constitution does he find the authority to do this?  

    Whatever do you mean, Liberal Jim?  The states have more general (though not unlimited) power than the national government, and always have.  Google “state police power.”  

  19. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Fredösphere: Here in Ann Arbor we’ve been bombed by robocalls this weekend, nearly every one from the Romney side. · 1 hour ago

    Palaeologus: I had a somewhat different experience with the robocalls.

    Last week I was getting many more from the Romney campaign, but over the weekend it was pretty much a dead heat. · 57 minutes ago

    Thanks for this information. It is hard to know what is going on, and it is useful to have spies in different localities.

  20. Fredösphere

    I imagine it depends a lot on which candidates one has supported in the past, and to whom those candidates have sold their mailing lists. I for one have not yet sent any money to any 2012 candidate.

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