Rick Santorum is in a tough spot.
The problems with women voters that supporters of Rick Santorum have long worried over indeed hurt him in Michigan, forcing him to consider whether changing his cultural war message, the WashPost writes:
Mitt Romney outperformed Santorum by large margins among women and men in Arizona, according to exit polls. But in Michigan, Santorum lost women to Romney by five percentage points, an edge that provided the former Massachusetts governor with his narrow margin there.
Although Santorum sought to spin the Michigan results as a tie, it is clear that the contest revealed a significant challenge for him. He has been outspoken about contraception, abortion and his wife’s decision to leave her career as a lawyer to home-school their seven children.
The campaign is pushing back about the cultural stuff being a media-driven caricature, and Tuesday night he was trying to concentrate more on his pro-manufacturing message. Columnist Roger Simon at Politico ain't buying it:
And I’ll bet you he wishes today that jobs actually had been his message. But it wasn’t.
Instead, his message was about Satan and how churches ought to be able to shape government policy and how people who wanted to send their kids to college were snobs.
And more. If you were out of work in Michigan and your unemployment benefits were about to run out, did you really want to hear Rick Santorum tell you how John F. Kennedy makes him want to “throw up”?
Because that would solve your problems, right? That would pay your mortgage and your car payments, right?
And his campaign's shoestring budget and limited organization is really hurting him, especially with 11 states in play next week. Santorum himself seems tired and his inability to get on the ballot in his (new home state of) Virginia will "cost him, big time," writes Larry Sabato at the UVa Center for Politics:
Because only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are on the Virginia ballot, Romney — who we expect to sweep the Old Dominion — starts off with a big lead on Super Tuesday courtesy of Virginia. That built-in advantage will make it exceedingly difficult for Santorum to finish the day with more delegates than Romney. In fact, we expect Romney to win more delegates on Super Tuesday than Rick Santorum, probably many more.
The further problem? Santorum needs his social issues message to win. Sabato (see chart above) only projects Santorum to win Oklahoma and Tennessee next week due to evangelical support, and to lose crucial Ohio. He'll still pick up a good number of delegates though.
He's now fallen far back to second in Rasmussen's national GOP poll too.
Mitt Romney's been beating up Santorum as "an economic lightweight" and if/when Santorum tries to hit back with more criticisms of bailouts you can expect Romney to keep bringing up the steel bailout he mentioned at the Feb. 22 debate in Arizona. Santorum denied voting for a bailout, but FactCheck notes that is what the $400 million loan to steelmakers amounted to. Their study is worth reading in full here.
Graphic: UVa Center for Politics
Santorum's schedule below: