By Howard Kurtz
Mitt Romney drove his battered campaign to a slender victory in Michigan on Tuesday, avoiding a humiliating setback in his home state after Rick Santorum had surged into the lead.
Combined with his easy win in Arizona, Romney is roughly back to where he was before Santorum’s sweep of three contests earlier this month threw the contest into disarray.
By Peter J. Boyer
When Tuesday’s Republican primary outcome became clear, Rick Santorum faced his supporters and declared it “an absolutely great night”—which it may have been, but not for Rick Santorum. He was crushed by Mitt Romney in Arizona, where, just a week ago, polls showed Santorum within easy striking distance of the frontrunner. And in the marquee contest in Michigan, Santorum blew what two polls had recently shown to be a double-digit lead, taking a loss he had no choice but to portray as a moral victory.
By Michelle Cottle
Not since that 1985 Mikhail Baryshnikov cinematic embarrassment has the term “white knight” so polluted the public discourse. (Or was that “white nights?” No matter.)
Even as the primary season rolls along, angsty Republicans fantasize about a base-friendly-but-not-barking-mad champion to come thundering up on his majestic steed and save them from this utterly uninspiring primary field.
After Michigan, don’t look for the dream to die anytime soon. Mitt Romney’s win wasn’t pretty and will continue to fuel concerns that the GOP electorate, despite its visceral hatred of Obama, won’t be as fired up as it needs to be to kick ass in November.
By John Avlon
Mitt Romney dodged campaign disaster last night, pulling off a three-point win over Rick Santorum in his home state of Michigan, while splitting the state’s delegates.
But the real question is why the race was so close—and that says as much about the current state of the GOP as it does about Mitt’s uninspiring campaign.
Keep in mind that Mitt won Michigan by 9 points in 2008, defeating the state’s winner in 2000, John McCain. Romney was then the conservative’s favorite candidate in the race, inspiring hosannas from church leaders and the talk radio crowd. He won “very conservative” voters overwhelmingly last time around but he lost those voters last night to Rick Santorum, along with strong supporters of the Tea Party, blue-collar workers and evangelicals—in other words, his party’s populist base.
By Michael Tomasky
So Mitt Romney won Michigan. A win is a win. Certainly a loss would have been a complete disaster for him. Romney avoided that and remains the presumptive nominee. But he still had a rough week, during which he should have learned three things: first, that he has a hell of a lot of work to do as a candidate; second, that he basically lost Michigan to Barack Obama this week; and third, that he is going to face, still, a big fight in Ohio on March 6. Far from Michigan settling things, it has merely set up the next walk over the coals for the candidate no one really wants.
Romney pulled off the miracle of winning while having one of the worst weeks a major candidate has ever had. He made so many errors in the last few days—the NASCAR owners “joke,” the jab at those poor poncho-wearers, the twice-bruited praise for the height of his home state’s trees—that the combination of them would have killed him in any state but the one in which he grew up. Can he really stop saying things like that? It seems very doubtful.
By Paul Begala
Mitt Romney barely winning a primary in his home state is like Charlie Sheen barely winning a primary in a Hooters. Sure, it’s a win, but the fact that it was close is more than embarrassing—it’s mortifying.
Romney won Arizona and he won Michigan. He won the delegates, but he certainly has not won the hearts of his party’s conservative base. According to CNN’s exit poll, he lost those who describe themselves as “very conservative” by 14 percent. He lost pro-lifers by 9 percent. He lost white evangelicals by 16 percent. And the only income group he won a majority of was those who earn more than $200,000 a year.
By Patricia Murphy
Female voters in Michigan spoke out Tuesday night, but they weren't singing Rick Santorum's tune. The former Pennsylvania senator lost the Michigan primary to Mitt Romney by three points due in large part to his weakness among Michigan women. Although Santorum lost among Michigan men by just one point, he lost the women's vote by a full six-point margin, leaving him well behind Romney and unable to close the gap with male voters in any way.
Santorum's loss came after weeks of talking about issues that did him no favors with the moderate and independent women who voted Tuesday, including his past statements that working women had been convinced by "radical feminists" that working outside the home is the only route to happiness, that Barack Obama is a "snob" for advocating that high school students go on to post-graduate training or college, and his opposition to contraception and abortion under any circumstances.
By Terry Greene Sterling
As Arizona GOP officials gathered in east Phoenix at the Grace Inn to watch Mitt Romney sweep their state, they nibbled hors d’oeuvres served up by members of the Arizona Federation of Republican Women as “The Day the Music Died” played through the speakers.
Meanwhile, at the cushy Hyatt Regency in downtown Phoenix, Sen. John McCain, who, along with Gov. Jan Brewer endorsed Romney for president, beamed as the former Massachusetts governor called him a “hero” during a televised victory speech. Romney’s sons Craig and Matt flanked McCain as their dad praised his former 2008 presidential primary foe.