Can Rick Santorum Score A Michigan Upset? (The Note)

Feb 28, 2012 9:01am
abc TW Santorum1 jt 120226 wblog Can Rick Santorum Score A Michigan Upset? (The Note)

(Image Credit: ABC News)

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone) and AMY WALTER (@amyewalter)

DETROIT — Rick Santorum’s campaign is already declaring victory in Michigan.

Voters are streaming into polling places throughout the state, but we’re still many hours away from knowing whether native son Mitt Romney or rival Rick Santorum will come up with a crucial win in Michigan today. (Romney is expected to do well in Arizona, which is also holding a primary today.)

However, Santorum aides are making it clear that keeping the race so competitive in Michigan, a state that Romney was supposed to win handily, amounts to success.

“I honestly don’t feel like it matters where we end up on Election Day,” Santorum’s campaign manager Michael Biundo said in an interview with ABC News on primary eve. “No matter what happens — win or lose — Romney will come out of here damaged.”

At a rally last night in a suburb of Detroit, which featured a musical performance by Kid Rock, Romney made clear where he intends to end up when all the votes are counted tonight.

“I’m going to win in Michigan and I’m going to win across the country,” he declared to a crowd of about 1,000 people.

However, one of Romney’s top backers in the state, former Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis, offered up a more nuanced scenario to reporters yesterday in Lansing where he showed up to bracket a Santorum event.

“Romney could potentially win the delegate vote but lose the popular vote,” Anuzis said, according to BuzzFeed’s Zeke Miller. “But the bottom line is that we’re going to be counting delegates.” http://bit.ly/wrK9ia

Santorum was making his own prediction across the state in Kalamazoo where ABC’s Shushannah Walshe noted the former Pennsylvania senator was met with a rock-star reception. He greeted several hundred voters at a Christian school where told the enthusiastic crowd, “I think we are going to surprise here” and “we have an opportunity here tomorrow in Michigan, here in Kalamazoo to go out and do something big, shock the establishment.”

Santorum’s campaign strategist John Brabender told the Note that “three things happened in the closing days that were to our benefit.  First, Rick spent time here, and did a great job staying on message.  Second, Romney’s gaffes.  And third, we finally reached close to parity with them on TV.”

One top Republican strategist unaligned with a presidential campaign agreed. No matter what happens in Michigan today, the strategist said, “Romney will have to battle weakness concerns rest of campaign.”

And while momentum may be on Santorum’s side, even his campaign advisers acknowledge Romney’s superior ground-game in the state has enabled him to get a jump-start on absentee votes. That could help give him an edge in a race that many political observers see coming down to a razor-thin margin.

From here, the battle shifts to the 11 states that will hold contests a week from today on Super Tuesday, and the campaigns are already loading for bear. If Santorum comes out of Michigan with a surprise win tonight Romney and his allies are likely to come out with guns blazing in the next round of states.

And Newt Gingrich, who has bypassed Michigan, could also become a factor. The pro-Gingrich Super PAC, Winning Our Future, plans to go up with ads in several Super Tuesday States and that could be another blow to Santorum’s prospects.

ROMNEY’S TROUBLE WITH CONSERVATIVES.  Meanwhile, Mitt Romney has fallen to a new low in personal favorability among strong conservatives in the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll, as his persistent problems in this core GOP group now threaten his fortunes in today’s crucial Michigan primary, according to ABC News pollster Gary Langer. “Nationally just 38 percent of Americans who identify themselves as ‘very’ conservative hold a favorable opinion of Romney, down 14 points from last week to the fewest in ABC/Post polls in this election cycle. Far more in this group, 60 percent, express a positive view of Rick Santorum. Romney is at new lows among related groups as well, with 56 percent favorability among conservative Republicans and 40 percent among all conservatives, down from last week by 13 and 10 points, respectively. But the comparison with Santorum is most striking among very conservatives, the highly ideological and predominantly Republican group on which Santorum has based his campaign strategy. This poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that Romney comes back in less ideologically committed groups; 58 percent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of him overall. While that’s a tepid rating in his own political party, he has company: Santorum’s in almost exactly the same position among all Republicans, with 59 percent favorability.” http://abcn.ws/zyGrAJ

WHAT IF SANTORUM WINS MICHIGAN? On “Good Morning America” today, ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd discussed today’s primary and the implications for the contests ahead. “If Rick Santorum wins tonight it’s the equivalent of a 9.0 on a Richter scale. I mean it is going to shake Washington, it’s going to shake Republican establishment it’s just going to shake things to their very core,” Dowd told said in an interview with George Stephanopoulos. “And I think what you’re going to see are the conversations that have been going on behind quiet doors saying we need another candidate in this race.” http://abcn.ws/ye1G4D

SANTORUM INVITES DEMOCRATS TO VOTE FOR HIM. How badly does Rick Santorum want to win today’s Republican primary in Michigan? So badly his campaign was making an appeal to Democrats on primary eve. Santorum, who is locked in a tight race with Mitt Romney here, has paid for robo-calls inviting Democrats to cross-over and vote for him. The call began hitting Michigan households on Monday. “On Tuesday join Democrats who are going to send a loud message to Massachusetts Mitt Romney by voting for Rick Santorum for president,” an announcer says. Santorum aides say it is an attempt to swing “Reagan Democrats” their way, however it is much more likely that any cross-over votes they may get will come from the liberal rather than moderate wing of the party. Markos Moulitsas, founder of the progressive blog, the DailyKos, has been urging Democrats in Michigan to vote for Santorum in the state’s open primary in the hopes of denying Romney a win in his home state. “They’re allowed to vote,” Santorum said of Democrats while campaigning in Kalamazoo, Mich. Monday night. “And anybody who wants to vote, I encourage them to vote.  Why wouldn’t we encourage people to vote for me?  We got a plan — we want to encourage folks to show that we can win and get a bipartisan vote.” http://abcn.ws/yudu1H

Here’s the script of the call:

“Michigan Democrats can vote in the Republican primary on Tuesday. Why is it so important? Romney supported the bailouts for his Wall Street billionaire buddies but opposed the auto bailouts. That was a slap in the face to every Michigan worker, and we’re not going to let Romney get away with it. On Tuesday join Democrats who are going to send a loud message to Massachusetts Mitt Romney by voting for Rick Santorum for president. This call is supported by hardworking Democratic men and women and paid for by Rick Santorum for president.”

ROMNEY CALLS SANTORUM’S ROBO-CALL ‘OUTRAGEOUS’. “It’s a dirty trick. It’s outrageous to see Rick Santorum team up with the Obama people and go out after union labor in Detroit and try and get them to vote against me,” Romney said in an interview on “Fox and Friends” this morning. “Look, we don’t want Democrats deciding who our nominee is going to be.  We want Republicans deciding who our nominee is going to be.  I know why Obama doesn’t want me to face him, but I just think it’s outrageous and disgusting, a terrible dirty trick.  At the last hour, by the way, late in the afternoon on the day before the election, maybe hoping no one would notice, they start sending out calls to Democrats, union members, telling them to go into the Republican primary and vote against Mitt Romney.  This is reminiscent of the dirty tricks in the past and it’s got to end and I think Rick Santorum has a lot of explaining to do.”

In Michigan, Winner Can Lose the Delegate Race. How? ABC’s Chris Good explains: Michigan will award most of its delegates geographically according to the vote in each of its newly drawn 14 congressional districts. Here’s how the allocation works:

–30 total delegates

–Two delegates awarded to the winner of each congressional district, for a total of 28

–Two delegates split proportionally among candidates who receive at least 15 percent of the statewide vote. In all likelihood, the top two finishers will split these two.

In other words, a victory in the statewide popular vote is valued at less than the value of just one county. Not all “proportional” states are created equal, and some of them won’t be too proportional in the end. In South Carolina, which awarded delegates similarly to Michigan, Newt Gingrich won 40 percent of the statewide vote and took home far more than 40 percent of its delegates, winning 23 out of 25 total. Nearly every state awards delegates based on congressional-district votes, in one way or another. Michigan could end in a delegate landslide, or its 30 delegates could be split about evenly among the top two finishers. http://abcn.ws/xldAue

PRIMARY PRIMER, courtesy of ABC’s Elizabeth Hartfield:

ARIZONA. There are 3,183,327 registered voters in Arizona. The state counts 1,118,938 registered Republicans, about 35 percent of the registered voter population. Arizona’s Republican primary is only open to registered Republicans. Many of the votes in Arizona’s primary have already been cast. Early voting began Feb. 2 in the state and continues straight through to election day. As of Monday, February 27, 326,439 ballots had been cast. Arizona is home to sizable Mormon communities in Coconino County and Navajo County, which are located in the northern-middle portion of the state, along the Utah border. Look for Romney to take a big victory in those areas.

MICHIGAN. Michigan has 7,279,629 registered voters. Voters do not register by party in Michigan, meaning that anyone can participate in the primary regardless of political leanings. The areas of the state to watch in Michigan are Wayne County (where Detroit is located) along with Ottawa County in the middle-western portion of the state. The affluent suburbs surrounding Detroit in Wayne County are generally Republican strongholds in the state, and Romney took 44 percent of the vote there in 2008. Strong turnout in this county will likely bode well for Romney Tuesday. Ottawa County is traditionally a stronghold for Christian conservatives. John McCain carried the county over Barack Obama in the general election in 2008. George W. Bush won strong victories in the county in 2000 and 2004. The county has a large population of fundamentalist Christians. Strong turnout here will probably be a good sign for Santorum.

 

THE BUZZ

RICK SANTORUM BLAMES RECESSION ON HIGH GAS PRICES. Rick Santorum told an audience Monday that the 2008 recession was caused by high gas prices. He said Americans were unable to pay their mortgages — not because of unsustainable housing prices or reckless lending  practices-but because of $4-per-gallon gasoline, according to ABC’s Shushannah Walshe. “We need to look at the situation of gas prices today. We went into a recession in 2008 because of gasoline prices,” Santorum said to an enthusiastic crowd at a hotel here. “The bubble burst in housing because people couldn’t pay their mortgages because we’re looking at $4-a-gallon gasoline. And look at what happened, economic decline.” After his rally, which was packed with families with their children, Santorum said he did not misspeak when he was asked to explain his comments. He said it was a “factor” in the recession and the housing bubble. “Energy prices were spiking in the summer of 2008 and that was a factor,” Santorum told reporters. http://abcn.ws/zfmPkr

KID ROCK JAMS WITH ROMNEY.  On the eve of the Michigan primary, musician Kid Rock sang a live version of “Born Free,” the official campaign song of the Romney campaign and a song that, until last night, has only been heard in its recorded version, blaring through speakers at events from New Hampshire to Iowa to South Carolina, and everywhere in between, notes ABC’s Emily Friedman.  ”The other day I got in my car and I drove out to a home of a fellow that lives in this area, and I asked him whether he might come here tonight,” said Romney, standing on a stage at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, surrounded by subwoofers and a drum set, the replica of the debt clock he so often uses to tout his economic dexterity was nowhere to be seen. “I think you know him pretty well. He’s a native son of Detroit, loves Michigan, loves Detroit. He’s recently made quite a commitment – he said he’s going to raise a million dollars for (the) Detroit symphony. He put a piece of paper in front of me. He’d written down some questions for me. He said first of all, he said, ‘Mitt, if you’re elected president, will you help me help the state of Michigan?’ And I said I would,” said Romney, teasing Kid Rock’s performance that had only been described as a “surprise musical guest” in campaign advisories. http://abcn.ws/xax6D1

BACKSTORY: The odd couple – Romney a squeaky clean family man who obeys the pillars of his Mormon faith,  and Kid Rock, a Hollywood bad boy who has a sex tape and a criminal record – apparently met last week behind closed doors, when Romney went to the singer’s suburban Michigan home on February 23. The meeting lasted for about an hour, according to a campaign aide, who described it as a “warm and friendly conversation” during which the two discussed their “similar interests,” including Romney’s commitment to Michigan, Detroit and the troops.  Kid Rock recently pledged to play a charity concert to raise $1 million to go toward saving the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Romney has pledged his support of the state of Michigan again and again on the stump.

GINGRICH SLAMS SANTORUM IN THE SOUTH.  Newt Gingrich is spending the next couple of days on his campaign bus traveling from Tennessee to Georgia, trying to appeal for Super Tuesday votes. While Gingrich hasn’t gone after Rick Santorum a lot in his stump speeches in the past, today Gingrich hit Santorum, who is leading in the polls in Tennessee, ABC’s Elicia Dover reports. “He has had two weeks of being the alternative,” Gingrich said. “The fact is, I think there are profound reasons that Rick lost his Senate race in Pennsylvania history in 2006 and I think it is very hard for him to carry that all the way to the general.” Gingrich said Santorum has “national news media momentum,” and the race is going back through another cycle with a new front-runner. “Santorum was fourth place for three consecutive states. He did something very intelligent. He took all of his resources, he skipped South Carolina, Florida, and Nevada, he went to three states nobody else was in, won the three states, one of which was a disaster for Romney because he dropped from 60 to 35 in Colorado,” Gingrich said. http://abcn.ws/zUCMCz

WATCHDOG GROUP ACCUSES PRO-ROMNEY SUPER PAC OF BREAKING THE LAW. ABC’s Matt Negrin notes that a group that fights for campaign finance disclosures formally filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Monday, claiming that the “super PAC” supporting Mitt Romney is illegally showing an ad from the candidate’s 2008 run for president. Last week, the PAC, Restore Our Future, began rerunning an ad from 2008 about Romney’s effort to help find a missing 14-year-old girl in New York City. The only difference between the two ads is that in the old one, Romney says at the end, “I’m Mitt Romney, and I approved this message.” In the new one, a woman says, “Restore Our Future is responsible for the content of this message.” The overlap is an example of the muddied rules that are supposed to govern super PACs, nominally independent groups that can spend and raise unlimited amounts of money for candidates. The FEC says that super PACs are forbidden from “coordinating” with campaigns over details on how to spend money for ads, but the regulation is difficult both to enforce and explain. http://abcn.ws/Apm7Q2

 

PRIMARY STATE SPEED READ

by ABC’s Elizabeth Hartfield: and Chris Good

He probably won’t win today’s Michigan primary, but Ron Paul rounded out his campaigning in the state with a solid showing at Michigan State University, where a 3,700-seat auditorium saw an overflow crowd for a Paul appearance on Monday. http://on.lsj.com/xA6iXE

With Romney and Santorum poised to finish at the top of the Michigan and Arizona primaries, Newt Gingrich is setting his sights on the March 6 Super Tuesday states. Like Romney’s home-field-advantage in Michigan, Gingrich will enjoy the same head start over other candidates in Georgia–and the same pressure to win. http://bit.ly/xAJYyW

–In Ohio, Santorum’s surge isn’t just limited to polling. The Plain Dealer reports that the Santorum campaign got a boost in fundraising over the Romney campaign in the month of January- raising $65,789 to Romney’s $60,182 raised for the month in Ohio. Interestingly, Romney actually raised the least amount of money from Ohioans out of the four remaining GOP candidates’ campaigns- Paul raised $61,124 in January, Gingrich raised $63,752.  http://bit.ly/A7Yyip

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@markzbarabak: Arizona, election stepchild #Overlooked#UnlovedInTheDesert latimes.com/news/nationwor… #GOP2012

@shushwalshe: Met my first Santorum Secret Service agent outside Santorum’s first stop at a diner in Grandville, MI. Quite pleasant!

@ByronYork: With everything at stake, Santorum wings it. Even with little organization, he appears to be recovering in Michigan. ow.ly/9kRfs

@samyoungman: Dem crossover vote may give Boston a little room to spin a loss, but I doubt anyone would hear them over the roar of chaos and concern

@amyewalter: RT +1 RT @reidepstein: A very happy birthday today to @llerer.

 

POLITICAL RADAR

–Mitt Romney spends primary day in Michigan visiting his state headquarters in Livonia. Romney will watch the results from Arizona and Michigan come in from the Suburban Collection in Novi, MI.

–Rick Santorum will start his day in Grand Rapids, Michigan visiting polling locations and talking to voters. Santorum then heads to Perrysburg, Ohio for a rally at the Holiday Inn French Quarter. Santorum returns to Grand Rapids in the evening for a primary night party at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

–Ron Paul won’t spend any time in Michigan or Arizona on Tuesday, but rather Virginia. Paul has an evening rally at The Waterford in Springfield, VA.

–Newt Gingrich will spend primary day in Georgia kicking off a bus tour that will take him from Dalton to Rome and end in Carrollton. Callista Gingrich is on the trail in Rome, GA visiting St. Mary’s Catholic School.

–ABC News’ Josh Haskell (@HaskellBuzz)

 

Check out The Note’s Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV

 

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