It is now official -- so I can let the cat out of the bag. Rick Santorum will speak at Hillsdale College on Monday evening at 8 p.m. Invitations are out to Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney: so, stay tuned.
This year marks the first time in the history of the college that one or more presidential candidates have appeared on campus during the campaign. Herman Cain passed through in November shortly before he withdrew from the race. Now we will get a chance to look over Santorum and, I would guess, some of the rest.
I will be in attendance on Monday evening, and I will give you my impressions late that evening or the following morning.
For what it is worth, I believe that Michigan may play a decisive role this year. Mitt Romney grew up here. His father was Governor; his mother ran for the Senate in Michigan. This ought to be his home turf. There are, however, a great many Catholics in the state, and Romney appears to be behind in the polls. That may, of course, change. Romney has deep pockets; Santorum is short on resources and is running a -seat-of-the-pants campaign. Romney's advertisements are now saturating the state.
But, in a time of crisis, money in politics can rarely compensate for a perceived lack of principle, and Romney -- for good reason -- has a credibility problem. Santorum was unpleasant and whiney in the early debates. In Florida, suddenly, the man caught fire. Romney was dull, dreary, and adequate in the early debates (except in South Carolina, where he was worse). He, too, caught fire in Florida. The debate in Arizona on 22 February may tell the tale.
Then, again, what happens in Hillsdale may have an impact as well. The only thing that I am confident of is this. If Romney cannot take Michigan, he is in deep trouble. The general election will be won or lost in Pennsylvania and the Midwest -- and everyone knows it.