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4 ways Rick Santorum can bounce back after Michigan
The Pennsylvanian narrowly misses a great chance to derail Mitt Romney in the Wolverine State. Can he get his mojo back before Super Tuesday?
 
While Rick Santorum lost two key primary states on Tuesday, pundits say he can make a comeback before Super Tuesday by shifting his focus back to the economy.
While Rick Santorum lost two key primary states on Tuesday, pundits say he can make a comeback before Super Tuesday by shifting his focus back to the economy.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Tuesday's Republican presidential primary in Michigan was Rick Santorum's "golden opportunity to dethrone the frontrunner," Michigan native son Mitt Romney, says Sam Youngman at Reuters. But after leading in the polls only a few days ago, Santorum blew it, narrowly losing to Romney 41 percent to 38 percent, and getting crushed by double digits in the night's other primary, Arizona. Santorum now has less than a week to regroup before Super Tuesday, when 400 delegates are up for grabs in 10 states. What does the former Pennsylvania senator have to do to get back in the GOP presidential race? Here, four ideas:

1. Pivot from social issues to the economy
Santorum "must refocus his message on his appeal to blue-collar workers and the middle class, with less of a focus on social issues," Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak tells Reuters. Santorum's recent touting of relatively unpopular positions on birth control and the separation of church and state "made it easy for the media and the Romney campaign to define him as extreme and unelectable." Santorum seems to have gotten the message. In his concession speech Tuesday, the Pennsylvanian talked about gas prices and manufacturing rather than the evils of contraception and Obama being a "snob" for promoting college.

2. Soften his image among female voters
"Women were the key" to Santorum's defeat in Michigan, says E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post. Indeed, the staunch social conservative who opposes contraception and abortion "lost every category of women polled Tuesday night, including working women, single women, and married women," says Patricia Murphy at The Daily Beast. If he wants to win women over, we'll need to see more of the Rick Santorum who showed up for his concession speech: "Humble, respectful, and deeply grateful to the women who have influenced his life," like his highly educated mother and wife.

3. Mend fences with his fellow Catholics
Santorum won half of evangelical Christian voters, but he lost the crucial Catholic swing vote to the Mormon Romney by six points in both Michigan and Arizona. Strikingly, Santorum had "hit hard on issues he believed would win over his fellow Catholics," says Peter J. Boyer at The Daily Beast, "attacking Obama's rule on contraceptive coverage and assailing JFK on church-state separation," saying the first Catholic president's famous speech on the subject makes him "want to throw up." To his credit, Santorum's "walkback of his puke over JFK... reveals he is not completely clueless with respect to his fellow Catholics," says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast.

4. There's nothing he can do. Santorum is toast
Santorum's near-win in Romney's home state exposed some of Mitt's weaknesses, "but at the end of the night, you remember that Romney basically has had the nomination nailed down for a while now," says Jonathan Bernstein at The Washington Post. Romney is essentially a "generic Republican" candidate, which is better than one with "significant flaws" like Santorum. At best, Santorum can push off his inevitable loss by a few weeks. So "enjoy these last few weeks of primary elections while they last, because we’re about to have a very, very long general election campaign."

 

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