Surging Santorum Takes On Romney In Michigan

Jim Malone

February 20, 2012

A major showdown is looming between former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and his surging challenger former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, in the race for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. Romney and Santorum face off with two other contenders February 28th in the Michigan primary.

The unpredictable 2012 Republican race has taken another unexpected turn. Former senator Rick Santorum is leading Mitt Romney in some polls in Romney’s home state of Michigan. Santorum has also pulled even with Romney or is slightly ahead in several national polls as well.

Santorum believes conservative Republican voters, especially those concerned with social issues like abortion and gay marriage, are rallying to his side. “A lot of folks say, Rick, you are the social conservative in this race. And I say, well, if that means I am on the only candidate in this race who actually goes out and talks about issues of faith and family, I will accept that,” he stated.

Romney is now pouring money and organization into Michigan and is showering the airwaves with negative ads aimed at Santorum, though the Santorum campaign is firing back with some ads of their own.

Romney continues to address the concern that he is having trouble winning over conservative Republican voters. “My conservatism did not come so much from reading the writings of great conservative scholars as it did from my living my life, my family, my faith and my business!” he said.

Michigan and Arizona both hold primaries on February 28th, but most of the attention is now on what happens in Michigan.

Even though Romney served as governor of Massachusetts he grew up in Michigan, and his father, George, served as governor there before launching a failed campaign for president in 1968.

Political strategist Matthew Dowd told ABC’s Good Morning America program a Romney loss in Michigan could damage his presidential hopes. “This is a huge, crucial moment. I actually think it is the most important moment for Romney in this entire campaign up until now. Can he stop Rick Santorum like he stopped everybody else, like he stopped Newt Gingrich? It is an unbelievably important moment for Mitt Romney in his home state," he noted. "If he loses it is a much different race.”

Analyst Bill Schneider is with a group called Third Way. He told Alhurra television that Romney continues to struggle in trying to win conservative support. “Simply because he is running as a business person, as someone who can manage the economy better than President Obama. They want someone who shows passion and someone who can stir up excitement on social issues and Romney is not that kind of person,” he said.

Romney continues to have advantages over his rivals in terms of fundraising and a national campaign organization.

Analyst John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center also expects Romney to continue to make the argument that he would be the most electable Republican in a matchup with President Barack Obama because of his appeal to centrist voters.

“With his considerable resources I think he is going to make the case to the Republican base and also the electability argument. He certainly has been making that and as we get further into the primaries, later primary voters will take that more seriously,” Fortier explained.

No matter what happens in Michigan and Arizona, University of Virginia expert Larry Sabato now predicts a lengthy battle for the Republican nomination over the next several months. “Often these races become marathons. You do not have a knock-out punch in the first few primaries. And it is now clear that 2012 on the Republican side is going to be a marathon,” he said.

Former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Congressman Ron Paul also remain in the Republican race.

After the two primaries on February 28th, the pace of the Republican campaign will intensify with 10 states voting on a single day, March 6th, in the so-called Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses.

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