A victorious campaign in the now-crucial Wolverine State seems unlikely to include a projection of weakness. But there were Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, dueling on Wednesday in Michigan about who’s been more victimized.
Santorum’s new ad, “Rombo,” features an ersatz Romney bursting into an empty warehouse and firing mud through a machine gun at a smiling, nearly cherubic cardboard Santorum cutout. “Romney’s negative attack machine is back, at full-throttle,” intones the narrator.
In interviews, Romney has in turn made the case that Santorum went negative first, in South Carolina, a way of claiming justifiable provocation. Senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom tweeted, “Hypocrisy alert! Despite Santorum's whining, he's run negative ads against Romney. Romney hasn't run any negative on Santorum.”
Maybe not, but Romney and the super PAC supporting him are throwing down with at least an aggregate $5 million in TV ads over the next two weeks, including, between the two entities, more than $1.8 million in Michigan alone, Hotline’s Reid Wilson reports.
It’s unlikely those spots will extol the virtues of the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRIMARY REPORT
Rick, Newt Come Out for Super PACs NEW!
[Politico, 2/15/12] The two candidates will be speaking at fundraising events for the super PACs that back them in the near future. Although laws forbid candidates from collaborating with these lightly-regulated entities, it's unclear whether speaking at a fundraising event would cross that line. And as their campaign coffers begin to run out, the candidates must do everything they can to raise enough funds to stay in the race.
Gingrich Name-Drops Business Theory Touted by Wealthy Super-PAC Supporter
[Bloomberg, 2/15/12] This isn't the first time a candidate has touted the beliefs or business of a donor (see Mitt Romney's praise for Full Sail University). The Lean Six Sigma idea, one of Gingrich's favorites and a business model that has become increasingly popular in the GOP field, is an idea widely publicized by Texas entrepreneur Mike George, the founder of Strong America Now PAC, which supports Gingrich.
Michigan Governor to Endorse Mitt Romney NEW!
[National Journal, 2/15/12] Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to announce tomorrow that he'll be backing Mitt Romney in this must-win state for the former Massachusetts governor.
Is Romney Going To Run Out Of Money? NEW!
[BuzzFeed, 2/15/12] Those big bucks Romney uses to take down his opponents may spell big trouble for him down the line, as the candidate with the most trouble raising small donations (which can be retapped as a candidate runs out of money) may be in danger of using up all the big donors he can find.
Obama Leading GOP Field in Swing States; Rust Belt a Weak Spot NEW!
[National Journal, 2/15/12] A new poll from Fox News shows Obama leading all four of the remaining candidates in 10 swing states, but his lead fell within the poll's margin of error against Romney and Paul in Rust Belt states, and the President only managed to tie Santorum there.
Poll: Santorum Leads Romney in Ohio
[National Journal, 2/15/12] President Obama is still locked in a virtual tie with Romney for Ohio’s 19 electoral votes, but Romney trails Santorum among likely voters in the Buckeye State's Super Tuesday Republican primary on March 6.
Santorum Surge Forces Romney to Shift Focus NEW!
[Boston Globe, 2/15/12] Romney has thus far attempted to frame himself as the best candidate to beat Obama and get the economy back on track due to his business credentials. But as Santorum gains ground, Romney has been forced to shift to decidedly murkier waters and tout his so-so social conservative chops.
How Will Rick Santorum's Culture War Play in the Fall?
[National Journal, 2/15/12] National Journal's Naureen Khan outlines 10 tidbits from Rich Santorum's 2005 book, It Takes a Family, that could help him with social conservatives but provide cannon fodder to his opposition if he were to make it to the general election.
Romney’s $5 Million Ad Blitz
[National Journal, 2/15/12] Romney and a super PAC that backs his campaign are about to embark on a television blitz aimed at tearing down Santorum and Newt Gingrich, an assault that already adds up to more than $5 million in key primary states—and there are few signs either of Romney's rivals have the financial ability to respond, as National Journal’s Reid Wilson writes.
[National Review, 2/15/12] National Review's Robert Costa writes that Rick Santorum's appeal lies not merely in his social conservative roots but also in his blue-collar, populist message and emphasis on manufacturing, which could lead him to a strong showing in the Midwest that would have Romney shaking in his boots.
Here's Romney's Plan To Take Out Santorum NEW!
[BuzzFeed, 2/14/12] The Romney camp will attack Santorum from two angles: For his lack of executive experience (like Obama), and his career in Washington as a Pennsylvania senator.
Why Do Tea Partiers Flock to Santorum, Given His Voting Record?
[McClatchy, 2/15/12] Many tea party supporters who are not fans of Romney have rallied behind Santorum instead, but it seems like they may not be taking a close look at his record. During his time in the Senate, Santorum voted for the big-spender bills, like the 2005 highway bill, that tea partiers love to loathe. The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf wonders the same thing, noting that Santorum's campaign platform is "an inversion of the Tea Party message."
Mitt Romney's Strategy To Sideline Rick Santorum: A Steady Rebuild And A Slow Burn
[Huffington Post, 2/15/12] In contrast to his strategy against Newt Gingrich, which was to slam the former House Speaker with incessant attacks until he crumbled under their weight, Romney's shifted his focus with Santorum. He'll be playing up his own accomplishments and attacking Santorum in a slower, more nuanced way.
Romney Promotes Michigan Roots
[New York Times, 2/14/12] Romney on Tuesday moved to shore up support in his boyhood home of Michigan with a new TV commercial, “Growing Up,” and an op-ed defending his 2008 position to let the auto industry go bankrupt. Politico notes that Romney isn’t leaving a win in the state up to chance.
Santorum Adviser Confirms Ad Buys in Five Additional States
[Politico, 2/15/12] Santorum's campaign is going up with ads in five more states later this week and early next week, says Santorum’s top strategist. The campaign will run ads in Arizona, Georgia, Ohio and Tennessee by the end of this week and in Oklahoma starting Monday, in addition to the ads already going on the air in Michigan.
Santorum Has 60K Unique Campaign Donors This Month
[USA Today, 2/15/12] According to John Brabender, one of Santorum's top strategists, the campaign has raked in 60,000 unique donors this month, with a record 12,000 coming in online on Tuesday.
Santorum Weighs Secret Service Protection
[National Journal, 2/15/12] Santorum is looking into getting Secret Service protection after a heated confrontation with protesters in Washington state earlier this week, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.
Gingrich Hopes for Another Campaign Resurrection NEW!
[Associated Press, 2/15/12] He's reconfiguring his campaign strategy and sending Callista out on the trail to soften his image, both moves that make it clear that Gingrich won't be leaving the race soon, despite calls from Conservatives for him to do just that. And although, as the Washington Post reports, Gingrich might be the most unpopular politician around, the notoriously confident candidate plans to continue to shrug off criticism and march on.
Callista Gingrich Steps Up Role in Newt's 2012 Campaign
[Politico, 2/15/12] Though she's best known as the prim blonde figure standing behind Newt as he speaks at the podium, Callista has begun to branch out on the campaign trail and act as a surrogate for her husband. Elsewhere, another political spouse is taking on an increased campaign role – as the Wall Street Journal reports, Michelle Obama's increased visibility is part of the POTUS' reelection strategy.
Gingrich's Main Backer Plays Two Angles
[Wall Street Journal, 2/15/12] Sheldon Adelson, billionaire backer of Newt Gingrich, is also considering supporting Romney's efforts to crush Santorum, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Romney's Auto-Bailout Stand Slammed
[Detroit News, 2/15/12] Michigan Democrats blasted Romney on Tuesday for his column in The Detroit News. Says former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm: "Mitt Romney turned his back on Michigan. He stabbed us during our darkest hour."
The Case for Super PACs
[National Journal, 2/14/12] Though common knowledge states that year’s presidential race, the first in the post-Citizens United landscape, has been ruined by the advent of super PACs, National Journal's Josh Kraushaar makes the case that the big-spending PACs have actually improved the state of the game and leveled the political playing field.
Presidential Hopeful Rick Santorum Woos Idaho Conservatives at Boise Gathering
[Idaho Statesman, 2/15/12] Santorum spoke to a gathering of over 2,000 people at a high school in Idaho about faith and politics, receiving twelve standing ovations from the enthusiastic crowd.
Some in GOP Want Recount in Maine Caucuses
[Portland Press-Herald, 2/15/12] As more news continues to come out about Maine’s flawed caucus results, some are calling on the state’s GOP chair to add underreported votes to the tally. Others are suggesting the state switch to a primary format. Regardless, Romney’s win over Ron Paul likely remains secure.
How Mitt Romney Can Defeat Rick Santorum for GOP Nomination
[Daily Beast, 2/15/12] Ben Jacobs writes that Romney will likely try to paint Santorum as an inside-Washington “liberal” by focusing on Santorum’s voting record. The former Pennsylvania senator is considered vulnerable for his aggressive pursuit of earmarks, comparatively pro-labor stance on issues like “right to work,” and raising the minimum wage.
Ron Paul's Endgame NEW!
[The American Prospect, 2/14/12] The American Prospect's Jamelle Bouie makes the argument that Ron Paul isn't likely to launch a third-party run, no matter how much his supporters would love that. Instead, Bouie argues, Paul hopes to bend the GOP a little closer to his will