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Michigan reax

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Happy February 29. With 99.9% reporting, Mitt Romney wins his home state of Michigan with 41.1% to 37.9% for Rick Santorum and 11.6% for Ron Paul.

Jim O'Toole files from Novi, Mich:

Still, the mere fact that he posed such a mortal threat to the better funded Mr. Romney -- in the state once governed by his popular father, George Romney -- demonstrated the remarkable growth of his campaign since his days of single digit support here and across the country only months ago. The sense of relief in the Romney campaign in eking out a win in a state so filled with the candidate's political and personal DNA showed how precarious his hold on Republican support remained.

The delegate count coming out of the state is basically split. From the Detroit Free Press:

As a result, Romney wins 21 delegates from the congressional district results, according to results posted by the Michigan Republican Party, but only 14 of those delegates will be allowed to vote at the national convention because the state broke national GOP rules by moving its primary before the Super Tuesday contests next week.

Santorum wins 18 delegates from the congressional districts, but only 12 of those people will be able to vote at the national convention.

The statewide popular vote will be distributed between Romney and Santorum on a proportional basis with 14 at large delegates at stake, but only two of those delegates will have voting privileges. How those will be divvied up hasn’t been determined.

Yet even in victory, the campaign in Michigan highlighted Romney’s flaws as a candidate. That he had to fight as hard as he did in a state he won four years ago was a reminder that he is still struggling to connect with a portion of his party’s base, even against what party strategists regard as relatively weak opposition.

While Tuesday reinforced again that he has the clearest path to the nomination, the way he won suggested that he still might have to scratch his way there, which is not how a front-runner is supposed to win.

Super Tuesday offers some promising states for frontrunner (Massachusetts, Vermont, Idaho and Virginia, the last of which doesn’t include Santorum or Gingrich on the ballot) but also features some less hospitable terrain (Tennessee, Oklahoma, North Dakota).

The most important state next week, however, may be just to the south of here – and not just because it offers 66 delegates. A Romney win in Ohio, another heartland state and a quadrennial presidential battleground, would send a loud message that he can beat Santorum in a Rust Belt state that the son of Detroit can’t claim as home.

The NYT talks to Sarah Palin about Romney:

But he continues to face questions about whether, should he win the nomination, he will be able to capture the energy of the conservative constituencies that have propelled the party when it has had electoral success in recent years, especially evangelicals and the Tea Party movement.

“It does seem that his campaign is having a tough time sort of garnering that — not just that support, but that energy that’s needed,” former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, a favorite of the movement, said in an interview late Tuesday. “Whether Romney wins or loses in Michigan tonight, just the fact that he’s had such a fight in his home state is evidence of that blessing not yet being given to him across the board.”

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Another labor pickup for Critz

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Speaking of the 12th District, Mark Critz has picked up another labor endorsement in his battle against fellow Democrat Jason Altmire, this time from the Westmoreland County Labor Council.

It follows a nod yesterday from the Johnstown-Somerset Regional Labor Council, and Altmire's endorsement Saturday from Westmoreland's Democratic committee.

Full statement from the Critz camp after the jump:

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Mano a mano in 12th

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Politico has named the 12th District dustup between Democrats Jason Altmire and Mark Critz one of the five "ugliest" in the nation:

If the last several days are any indication, the battle between Critz and Altmire, who have been pitted in the same southwestern Pennsylvania district, will be a rough one.

Late last week, Critz launched a bid to boot Altmire from the ballot, arguing that the Democrat failed to collect the 1,000 valid signatures he needed in order to qualify for the primary. Altmire fired back, calling the challenge “a desperate attack from a desperate campaign.”

Critz has also slammed Altmire for his conservative voting record, reminding voters that he opposed President Barack Obama’s health-care bill. He has even begun jabbing Altmire for appearing on Fox News and calling him “Sean Hannity’s hero.”

“While I don’t always vote with the Democratic leadership, I am a proud Democrat and I am not afraid to say it,” Critz wrote in one recent fundraising email. “Jason Altmire voted with the Republican leadership 53% of the time in 2011 and never misses an opportunity to go on Fox News to bash the Democratic Party. I have never been on Fox News and I never will.”

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Daily Santorum: Game on

Published by Tim McNulty on .

It looks like it's going to be a looooong night in Michigan (early/absentee voting should make Romney lead out of the gate, but don't be fooled, says Nate Silver), so you're going to be hearing a lot about two things: Democratic voters and whether Mitt Romney is weakened.

If Romney wins big despite Rick Santorum's leading in the state just two weeks ago, it's game over for the ex Pa senator. Santorum will have lost sorely needed delegates and proved his record and culture war calls won't hack it in the big leagues. But if Romney squeaks out a win (as John Brabender said yesterday) or Santorum takes his foe's home state, look out. From another great story by Molly Ball at The Atlantic:

With Super Tuesday just a week later -- 10 states vote on March 6 -- anything less than a show of strength for Romney in his native state could trigger a tsunami of fresh support for Santorum.

"If Santorum wins Michigan, oh my goodness, it's Katie bar the door," said Chuck Yob, a Grand Rapids-based longtime Republican operative who supports Santorum. "I think he's going to do well in Michigan, and it wouldn't surprise me if he won."Michael Moore/Team America

So, Democrats. Expect the talking heads tonight (and maybe tomorrow) to be all over the Santorum camp doing a robocall urging Democrats to vote for him tonight (as Mich has an open primary). Romney called that a "dirty trick" on Fox this morning, but Santorum responded minutes later by saying, A, it's all within the rules and, B, it helps his argument that he'll be a better general election candidate than Romney. Santorum via GOP12 (source of the video above):

"It's interesting that he criticized me for attracting Democrats, because one of the things that Gov. Romney's people say is 'Oh, he can't attract Democrats.' Well, guess what: we'll wait and see."

Santorum's argument is aided by new WashPost polling showing he's doing well (and Romney poorly) with white working class voters. But expect Romney supporters to keep hammering Santorum for the robocalls, saying he's siding with Obama. And they've got a point: ultra-liberals Daily Kos have been calling on Dems to support Santorum too, as part of a so-called "Operation Hilarity." (UPDATE: Michael Moore too.)

And Santorum's own call isn't so much about appealign to Democrats as it's a red meat play for union workers, saying Romney's opposition to the auto bailout was "a slap in the face to Michigan workers." Santorum of course opposed the bailout too.

Public schedule below:

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Rendell: GOP race "heartbreaking"

Published by Tim McNulty on .

With all eyes on Michigan tonight -- where even if Mitt Romney wins, he may leave with the perception of being weak -- it's worth noting that we're living through history right now.

There have been seven Republican frontrunners during the cycle, while there where four (Rockefeller, Nixon, Lodge, Goldwater) in the wild 1964 race. Alex Roarty of National Journal (and formerly PoliticsPa) nailed it best a week ago, writing that "it's empirical fact" that this is the most volatile GOP primary in American history:

But now, after the volatility of the last four months, even the '64 race seems tame in comparison. The fact of seven front-runners doesn't quite capture all of the movement in the polls: It doesn't include Michele Bachmann's temporary status as the Iowa front-runner or that Gingrich and Santorum both fluctuated between contender and also-ran twice. Or that Romney has oscillated between front-runner and underdog nearly every month for the last six months.

Polling data supplied by Gallup dating back to 1930 shows that no other race since that time has even come close to the same level of volatility. The 1940 GOP primary produced perhaps the most shocking result, when the GOP nominated businessman Wendell Willkie when he had polled at only 3 percent nationally in April of that year. But that was the product of a late surge, not a year's worth of rises and collapses from potential candidates.
Looking toward Michigan Politico does their version of the story today, with a dig from Ed Rendell:

“The Clinton-Obama primary made Barack a stronger candidate, whereas I think this will make whoever emerges inherently a weaker candidate.”

Added Rendell: “In terms of reelecting the president and bringing back a Democratic Congress, I’m delighted. … In terms of taking the longer view and the effect on American democracy, in many ways it’s heartbreaking.”