Romney’s Night, but Tug-of-War Awaits

Momentum trends show Santorum, Gingrich still in the game.

In the 2012 Republican presidential race, a caucus or primary’s front-runner often becomes tomorrow’s runner-up. This was the case last night. Mitt Romney, as predicted, won by a landslide in Arizona and came from behind to win Michigan, the state that his father governed. Rick Santorum, hardly discouraged, characterized his narrow loss as something to celebrate because of the odds against him in the state.

At the time of publication, Romney had 48% of the vote in Arizona. Santorum came in second with 26%, followed by Newt Gingrich with 16% and Ron Paul with 9%. Romney appears to have won Michigan by only about three percent – 41% to Santorum’s 38% at last estimation. Paul defeated Gingrich for third, 12% to 7%.

There are two ways to look at the results. On the one hand, Romney came from behind when polls just last week showed Santorum with a significant lead. On the other hand, Romney won this state by 9 percent over McCain in 2008. His father was a popular governor of the state, and Romney grew up there. Michigan was looked at by most political analysts as a second home-state for him.

In his victory speech, Romney worked to characterize the night as a surprise victory. He said that “they were ready to count us out” last week. His speech did not mention or refer to any of his rivals and was geared for the general election. He warned that President Obama would be “unrestrained” if he’s re-elected and sought to counter the declining unemployment rate by talking about the “real unemployment rate” of 15%. He said that Obama’s excuse that he inherited a poor economy is invalid because he also inherited a Democratic Congress that would have given him free reign to fix it.

Rick Santorum’s concession speech was written like a victory speech. He did not go on the attack against Romney in it and emphasized that he was fighting an uphill battle in Michigan and made it a nail-biter. This speech was unique because it focused on the “Freedom Agenda” that would define his first 100 days in office. He talked at length about energy security and driving the price of gasoline downwards.

He pledged to maximize domestic production of oil and talked about North Dakota’s potential in this area. He said he’d repeal ObamaCare, revive the manufacturing sector, have state governments run entitlement programs and fight for a balanced budget. The last part of his speech was about the Declaration of Independence and George Washington. He told the inspiring story of Washington and what he fought for in great detail and used it as a rallying call.

Newt Gingrich, struggling to make a comeback, went on The O’Reilly Factor to discuss gas prices and his stance on Afghanistan. He said that he hoped to resuscitate his campaign by focusing on how he’d bring the price of gasoline down to $2.50 per gallon, fight against the establishment and refuse to apologize, as Obama did, for the accidental burning of Qurans in Afghanistan.

Gingrich also laid out his strategy forward. On Super Tuesday, he will win his home state of Georgia and “do very well” in Tennessee and Oklahoma, “well” in Ohio and “better than expected” in Idaho. He said he plans to win Mississippi and Alabama on March 13, which will “set him up to compete” in Kansas. He must have misspoken because the Kansas primary is on March 10. He has also talked about winning Texas on April 3, as Governor Rick Perry endorsed him after suspending his own presidential campaign.

The next contest will be the Washington caucus on March 3, which is not receiving much attention. The last poll there had Santorum ahead by 11%. Then comes Super Tuesday on March 6, when 10 states will hold their primaries and caucuses.

Super Tuesday is looking good for Rick Santorum. He is ahead by an average of 8% in Ohio, 21% in Oklahoma and the last Tennessee poll had him winning by 18%. He is also likely to win Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota. Newt Gingrich is only ahead in his home state of Georgia, where he has a 9-point lead on average.

Mitt Romney is certain to win his home state of Massachusetts, where the last poll had him ahead by 48%. He will probably win Vermont handily, but there are no recent polls out of the state. The last one, taken in July, had him ahead by 19%. He will also almost certainly win Virginia, as only he and Ron Paul qualified for the ballot.

Romney goes into the Washington caucus and Super Tuesday with some momentum but the polls show that Santorum will probably have the momentum after March 6, especially if Gingrich drops out or his supporters move en masse to Santorum. Romney have a good night but the campaign is not yet over.

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