Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs said he was “elated” with the volatile Republican presidential race, saying a long primary process will help build consensus around the strongest potential nominee.
“Truthfully, I think this is a good thing for the Republicans,” Dobbs said on the “This Week” roundtable. “The national media is clacking about this is unresolved. I say, great, we’re supposed to be building something of a national consensus in this primary process. I’m, frankly, elated with it.”
Rick Santorum has carried his recent surge in national polls into Mitt Romney’s home state of Michigan, which hosts its key primary on Feb. 28. An upset win by Santorum there could possibly extend the race well into the spring and summer — similar to the 2008 Democratic race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
ABC’s George Will said that Santorum could take Michigan, relying on social conservatives outside of metro areas like Detroit to carry him.
“Michigan has the Detroit metropolitan area, where Romney in 2008 did very well and should do well again. Then there’s the rest of it,” Will said. “And over in the west, particularly, you have the Dutch Calvinists in Kalamazoo and Holland and Muskegon and places like that, Grand Rapids. Out there, the social conservatives are strong. I would expect Santorum to carry non-metro [Michigan]. The question is, by how much?”
Former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers said “the extended primary season is not really working that well for any of the Republican candidates,” claiming they have turned to wedge issues and attacks on each other that will weaken them in the general election.
“Republicans are talking about the president’s theology. They’re talking about whether a fetus is a person,” Myers said. “They’re attacking each other personally and talking about earmarks.”
Myers criticized Santorum supporter Foster Friess’ recent controversial comments on contraception, and Santorum’s past responses on the issue.
“One of the things he says is that he thinks [contraception is] bad for the country and that he’s counseling women that they ought not to use it,” Myers said. “Most women don’t want Rick Santorum’s advice about whether or not they should use birth control.”
ABC News senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl said a focus on such social issues could hurt Santorum in the long run.
“He cannot be the niche candidate of the far-right social conservatives,” Karl said. “He’s the guy that can connect to blue-collar Republicans. He is not surging because he is Rick Santorum, social conservative, niche candidate. This is not a good thing for him to be talking about.”
Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page said he believes Romney’s financial advantage may help him fend off Santorum in the ad war in Michigan, but said he is still having trouble connecting with voters on the campaign trail.
“We see he has not been able to get his verbal message together,” Page said. “He still sounds rather in disarray.”
And Karl said that with Santorum’s rise, Michigan has now become a “must-win” for Romney.
“The central argument of his candidacy is that he is the candidate who can beat Barack Obama, he is the one that is electable,” Karl said. “If you can’t convince Republicans in your home state to vote for you, how are you going to convince anybody else?”