What happened
Mitt Romney won the Michigan Republican primary, coming from behind in the polls to handily beat John McCain. Following McCain’s win in New Hampshire and Mike Huckabee’s victory in Iowa, Romney’s resurgence keeps the GOP presidential race wide open. While McCain told Michiganders that auto jobs weren’t coming back, Romney’s more upbeat message had greater resonance with voters, according to exit polls. “Even though Michigan people are pretty realistic,” said Lansing-based political analyst Bill Ballenger, “they needed a little happy talk.” (Los Angeles Times, free registration)
What the commentators said
The Republican race “is starting to look like a Pee Wee soccer tournament,” said John Dickerson in Slate. “Everyone gets a trophy!” But the Michigan trophy was “essentially do-or-die” for Romney—if he’d lost there but kept on running, it would have been a “sad death march.” Now he has to decide if he wants to continue running as “Mr. Fix-It,” as he did in Michigan, or revert to “the previous mishmash that voters have found so inauthentic.”
The race for the Republican nomination is now officially a “free for all,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. But while GOP voters are “still looking for a standard bearer,” Romney certainly earned “immediate bragging rights.” Michigan is his native state, but Romney won “convincingly among Republican voters of all stripes.”
He “essentially tied” Huckabee among evangelical Christian voters, said Alexander Mooney in CNN’s Political Ticker blog.
And he even held his own against McCain among independents, said Rich Lowry in National Review Online. “Pretty impressive.”
The results were great for Romney, but they made it “a bad night for the Republicans,” said David Brooks in The New York Times' Campaign Stops blog. Romney is not only “a weak general election candidate,” but his “win pretty much guarantees a bitter fight for the nomination.” Sure, Romney found his “voice,” but it only reminds us how divided his “corporate Republicans” are from the “free market Republicans.” The race “will only get uglier” from here.