What could have been a very bad night for Mitt Romney, a/k/a The Weathervane, turned out to be mixed. He won handily in Arizona, a state none of his opponents seriously contested. In Michigan he dodged a bullet by eking out a 3 point victory over Santorum The problem for the Weathervane is that Michigan should have been one of his strongest states, a state where his father was governor, and which he won by nine points in the Republican primary in 2008. Outspending Santorum three to one, he barely won a victory in a state which should have been his going away. Ironically he owed his victory to the fact that his old nemesis Gingrich stayed in and deprived Santorum of a winning margin.
Santorum missed a prize opportunity to do serious damage to the Romney campaign. His off performance in the Arizona debate last week probably cost him a few points and the press coverage of him, as I am sure he expected it would be, has been largely negative. However, he is clearly the anti-Romney candidate now, and in one of Romney’s strongest states he came close to winning.
Santorum needs more discipline as a candidate. His speech in Michigan election night was a rambling tribute to his mother, energy policy, etc. It was too long and lacked focus, and should have been a tightly written concise oration stating the main themes of his campaign and looking forward to Super Tuesday. Romney is still reliant solely on his money advantage, in Arizona for example he outspent Santorum 14-1, and has great weaknesses as a candidate where that money advantage is less than completely overwhelming. Unlike Florida where he humiliated Gingrich with a 15 point thumping, his victory against Santorum in Michigan indicates that he may be up against an opponent now who may be able to largely negate Romney’s strategy of smothering opponents with negative ads.
All should be clearer after Super Tuesday next week. Go here for a good look ahead at Super Tuesday by Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics.