Saturday, February 25, 2012

When Mitt Romney Came To Town...Along with Rick, Newt, and Ron

On Tuesday, voters in the mitten state will go to the polls. The Republican Primary is here (and in Arizona), and as such, it's been a race between two of the top four: Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Newt Gingrich has essentially written off Michigan, and Ron Paul doesn't resonate very well here, so neither are expected fair better than 15% on Tuesday.

The real race then comes down to either Romney, our supposed "favorite son" and Santorum with his conservative insurgency and reliance on Tea Party activists. Romney should have taken this state rather easily as he was born here, spent the first 14 years of his life here, and conventional wisdom would suggest the sooner he wrapped up the GOP nomination, the sooner he can devote all his resources to defeating President Obama.

Unfortunately, the road to his inevitable coronation hit a few pot holes. Of course, this is Michigan, so that can be taken literally as well.

It looks as though Romney is only now coming back after a series of unfavorable polling that showed Santorum gaining momentum here. I think what had hurt Romney the most here was his defense of the position he took back in 2008 where he opposed the federal bailout of Chrysler and GM. Romney opined in the Detroit News back on Valentine's Day that the bailout was "crony capitalism on a grand scale."

The last thing Romney needed was to remind voters here that he opposed a policy four years ago that turned out was successful and saved jobs. Of all the GOP candidates, Mitt Romney knows best how important the auto industry is to this state. Rather than admit he was wrong, he opined a column that tortured logic and in the end tried having it both ways. "It needed to go through managed bankruptcy...it was put through managed bankruptcy."

It's hard to say how exactly he would have done differently. I don't know if it was contradictory. It kind of looked like he was trying to come up with a solution so confusing that maybe we should just assume he knows what he's talking about and we'll all just go along with it.

I am no auto expert. But I do know that federal loans saved GM and Chrysler (Ford managed to mortgage farm to avoid a federal loan), and thereby staved off an even more severe economic downturn. No amount of spin from Romney can change this.

In typical Romney fashion, he came off pandering by blaming the unions (or the union bosses), which I don't really understand why unionized workers are such a target. They are exactly the kind of voters Republicans need: they're middle class and they've got a ballot. More to the point, many of them are socially conservative, many own guns, many hunt, and most importantly, they are archetypal, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kind of people many Republicans think everyone should be.

The Democratic Party does not have a monopoly on union voters or households. They do have a 2-1, or in some cases a 3-2 advantage that can be neutralized 50-50 or even possibly reversed. Instead of reaching out to these people, Romney wants to point the finger at them and say that they're the problem. Well, they're not. They could have been your saving grace.

While it seems likely Romney will eventually win the Michigan primary, it's neither assured nor is it expected to be a landslide. Barring another economic collapse, I find it highly unlikely he'll be able to flip Michigan to the Republican column in November.

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