If new polls are any indication, Republican Mitt Romney is headed for a humiliating loss in Michigan's Feb. 28 presidential primary. Democratic pollster PPP, for one, has Romney trailing Rick Santorum by 15 points. Santorum has beaten Romney in every Midwestern contest so far (Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri), and Michigan still hasn't forgiven Romney for opposing Obama's bailout of GM and Chrysler, both now profitable, in a notorious 2009 op-ed titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." Faced with the prospect of losing in a state where he was born and raised — a state, moreover, where his father was a popular three-term governor — Romney has reserved $1.3 million worth of TV airtime for campaign ads. Would losing Michigan sink his campaign?
Romney can't survive a Wolverine State upset: Losing Michigan would likely "put a dagger through the heart of Romney's campaign," says Aaron Goldstein at The American Spectator. It's not just that his father was a popular governor, or that he "convincingly won the state's 2008 primary." Electability is Romney's trump card, and "if Romney can't beat Rick Santorum in Michigan, then how could he expect to beat President Obama" in that critical general-election state — or in any other Rust Belt state, for that matter?
"Could Mitt lose Michigan?"
C'mon. Michigan won't sink Mitt: Romney won't lose in his birth state, says Kyle Melinn in the Lansing City Pulse. He has two weeks to bury Santorum under a heap of TV ads, just as he did with Newt Gingrich in Florida, where Mitt's attacks turned "a seemingly close election into a double-digit blowout." But even if Romney does lose Michigan, it's unlikely that "the resulting national embarrassment" would last more than a week. Mitt is expected to rule Super Tuesday on March 6, when "Santorum isn't even on the ballot in Tennessee or Virginia."
"Santorum can still hope for delegates"
Win or lose, Romney has to improve his ground game: If you look at all eligible Michigan voters, Romney actually beats Santorum, says Nate Silver at The New York Times. But the polls are weighted toward likely voters, and Santorum has all the enthusiasm on his side. Romney needs to use his deep pockets to "build the best turnout operation," bringing more Mitt-friendly Michiganders to the voting booth. If he can't do that, "it becomes harder to see how he finds the building blocks for a national majority."
"Down in Michigan polls, Romney needs to find his base"
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