“Well, that won’t happen,” Mitt Romney told a Michigan interviewer today who raised the prospect, loudly hinted at in what has now become a series of polls, that the former Massachusetts governor could lose there on Feb. 28.
That’s pretty Shermanesque stuff from Romney, who has characteristically avoided such point-of-no-return statements elsewhere on the trail. In Iowa, when Romney appeared to suggest that he was going to win, his campaign rapidly walked back that statement. No point doing that now. A loss here would defy spin (since the suggestion two months ago that Rick Santorum would take Romney in Michigan would have opened one to widespread mockery and derision) and even a narrow win would be counted as an aesthetic loss.
For Romney, the victory must be beyond the Pyrrhic, and that’s why he has made the strategic decision to get confrontational with unions. It’s an issue of clear demarcation with Santorum, who confessed today, “I have no problem with private-sector unions.”
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRIMARY REPORT
A GOP Nightmare Scenario
[Washington Post, 2/16/12] What if Rick Santorum won the popular vote but Mitt Romney won the delegate vote at the Republican National Convention? Such a "nightmare scenario" would not bode well for the GOP, writes The Washington Post's Jonathan Bernstein.
Rick Santorum’s Lucky Culture War Over Contraception NEW!
[The Daily Beast, 2/16/12] A perfect storm of events--Santorum's trifecta of wins last Tuesday and mounting GOP backlash to Obama's contraception rule--has created an atmosphere in which Santorum's social conservatism boosts his appeal almost exponentially.
Santorum Backer Suggests Women Use Aspirin Between Their Knees as Birth Control
[Talking Points Memo, 2/16/12] When super PAC funders go rogue: In an interview on MSNBC today, Foster Friess reminisced about birth control back in his day.
With Candidates Bailing, CNN Cancels March 1 Debate
[National Journal, 2/16/12] Romney, Santorum and Ron Paul all said they planned to skip a CNN debate scheduled for March 1 in Atlanta, so the news network canceled it Thursday.
Five Ways Romney Can Attack Santorum (and Why They May Not Work) NEW!
[New York Times, 2/16/12] Romney's traditional strategy to bring down opponents is to attack, attack, attack. The New York Times' Michael Shear suggests five different avenues of attack Romney takes, but cautions that none of them are foolproof.
Poll: Santorum Edging Romney in Michigan
[National Journal, 2/16/12] Santorum leads Romney by a slim margin in Michigan, Romney's birthplace and the latest battleground in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, according to a new poll released early today.
What's Really Behind Sheldon Adelson's Backing of Newt Gingrich? (Besides $11 Million) NEW!
[Investor's Business Daily, 2/16/12] Why would anyone spend $11 million on anything? IBD's Andrew Malcolm examines what the billionaire Newt backer is hoping to accomplish with his infusion of funds.
Obama Jabs Romney on Autos, But Not Naming Names
[National Journal, 2/16/12] As Romney struggles to explain his opposition to Obama’s efforts to rescue the then-ailing auto industry in 2009, the president took a not-so-subtle jab at Romney on Wednesday: "I took office, the American auto industry was on the verge of collapse,” he said. “And there were some folks who said we should let it die."
Perry Seeks OK to Create Super PAC
[Politico, 2/16/12] Texas Gov. Rick Perry is seeking permission to use the cash left over from his presidential run to start either a PAC or a super PAC. The request, filed with the Federal Election Commission, also asks whether Perry can use some of the leftover money for his gubernatorial re-election campaign.
Santorum Does Not Have a Campaign Headquarters
[ABC News, 2/15/12] Santorum, whose campaign is running on a shoestring budget, has rejected many of the trappings of a traditional presidential candidate--he doesn't even have an official campaign headquarters.
The Elusive Hunt for the ‘Real Romney’ NEW!
[Columbia Journalism Review, 2/16/12] CJR's Brendan Nyhan takes a look at why the media's tendency to search for the "true" candidate can be bad for coverage, in that it's a futile search for an essence that may not exist, and may cause reporters to ignore more important aspects of the campaign.
In Money Chase, Obama Leads GOP Candidates in Most States
[USA Today, 2/15/12] A USA Today analysis shows that President Obama has outraised the top GOP presidential candidates in two-thirds of the country, including battleground states such as Pennsylvania and North Carolina considered crucial to his reelection prospects.
Pro-Gingrich Super-PAC Ads Coming to Talk Radio
[New York Times, 2/15/12] The super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich will take to the talk radio shows of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin today with new ads in three key states that target Romney and the GOP “establishment.” Meanwhile, the Romney camp and the super PAC backing him have booked nearly $2 million in TV and radio ads in Michigan alone, while Santorum has only reserved $42,443 in airtime for his own ads in the state ahead of Michigan’s Feb. 28 primary.
Santorum the Moderate
[Slate, 2/15/12] Now that his campaign is surging, Santorum is toning down his rhetoric on homosexuality, gay marriage, and abortion. “His culture-war talk is softer, more implied,” writes Dave Weigel.
On Auto Bailouts, Santorum Says Bush More to Blame than Obama
[MLive, 2/16/12] Speaking at the Detroit Economic Club today, Santorum said he opposed the bailouts of both Wall Street and the auto industry, but added that the president deserves something of a pass on the latter: "I actually blame President Bush more than I blame President Obama,” he said. “He was just following suit. President Bush set the precedent, and it was the wrong precedent."
Romney: How I’ll Respond to China’s Rising Power
[Wall Street Journal, 2/16/12] Romney penned a Thursday op-ed for The Journal slamming Obama for moving in “precisely the wrong direction” in his dealings with China, and explaining that as president he would emphasize the need for American strength. But former GOP presidential candidate and Romney supporter Jon Huntsman, in a rare moment of criticism for the front-runner, called Romney's China strategy "wrongheaded."
In Michigan Campaign Kickoff, Romney Takes on Unions
[Detroit News, 12/16/12] At a kickoff rally in Grand Rapids, Romney assailed Obama for taking union contributions to his campaign and pledged to take on union bosses and end "crony capitalism."
Santorum Made $1 Million a Year, Returns Show
[National Journal, 2/15/12] Santorum released four years of tax returns on Wednesday, more tax information than any GOP presidential candidate has made public so far this cycle. The forms show he paid on average a higher tax rate than Romney, who paid about 14 percent on mostly unearned income from investments, and a slightly lower rate than Gingrich, who paid about 32 percent in taxes.
Romney’s Blue-Collar Problem
[Washington Post, 2/16/12] Romney’s problems with conservatives and evangelicals are well established, but there’s another issue that could hamper his election chances in Michigan: In every contest held so far in which exit polling is available, Romney has done progressively worse as a voter’s income has dropped.
Santorum Once Campaigned as 'Progressive Conservative,' Non-Reaganite
[Huffington Post, 2/15/12] During his first bid for Congress in the early 1990s, Santorum promised not to be a Reagan Republican, fashioned himself a progressive conservative, said he was impartial on unions, and stayed vague on abortion rights.
Memo to the Tea Party: Santorum Rejects Your Message
[The Atlantic, 2/16/12] Santorum cares most about social issues and national security, with fiscal issues such as the alarming deficits coming at the bottom of his list of priorities. His approach is an inversion of the tea party message, Conor Friedersdorf writes, yet tea partiers are flocking to him.