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.