Michigan and Arizona primary voters head to the polls on Tuesday in what has become a virtual dead heat between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. After a poor debate performance last week by Santorum and a flood of negative advertisements by Romney supporters, the trend has been moving in Romney’s favor. But only slightly.
The real question is, what happens if Santorum can pull of a victory in Michigan? This is Romney’s home state, where he grew up as a child, where his father served as governor. But this is also the place where he said the federal government should not have bailed out the auto industry, a fact the Michigan voters seem none too pleased about.
A loss in your own home state is a devastating blow for any candidate. For Mitt Romney who has already faced criticism for being unable to seal the deal, this would be especially damaging. It’s one more sign that Republican’s are just not happy with the Romney option.
If Santorum wins Michigan, does chaos ensue? Not necessarily. Santorum will definitely pick up some momentum and fundraising ability. And after tomorrow, it will be clear that this is a two-person contest. But Super Tuesday is just around the corner when 10 states will head to the polls all in the same day. In that situation, the national Romney organization is still a huge advantage.
However, a Romney loss in Michigan does mean a longer drawn out process. Santorum will have the money and the media attention to fight another day. And maybe that’s all he needs right now.
It is still highly unlikely that we are headed for a brokered or even a contested convention. There is a virtual eternity left in this primary contest, and Romney and Santorum will have plenty of time to fight it out before all hell breaks loose.
Keep your bets on a Republican candidate securing the nomination well ahead of the convention. It may just take a little longer than we had expected.