Mitt Survives Again With Arizona, Michigan Wins

Mitt Survives Again With Arizona, Michigan Wins

By Carl M. Cannon - February 29, 2012

The predominant storyline heading into Tuesday's Republican primaries in Arizona and Michigan was that the GOP nominating contest is thoroughly muddled, that Mitt Romney is a historically weak front-runner, and that this contest is likely to be decided at the convention.

There is still evidence for all these contentions, but on Feb. 28 the outlines of a new narrative emerged. Romney has taken all the punches his Republican rivals and mischief-making Democrats can throw at him -- not to mention those he’s thrown at himself -- and came out of it as the only viable candidate in the GOP field.

In the first 11 caucuses and primaries, Romney has netted the most votes, carried the biggest and most important states, raised the most money, and garnered the most endorsements -- all while amassing a significant lead in delegates.

In a four-man race Tuesday, he won a huge plurality in Arizona, besting Rick Santorum by a nearly 2-1 margin, with Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul finishing up the track. His home state of Michigan, which Romney won by about three percentage points, was much closer, but considering the fact that he was down there by nine points only last week, Romney was pleased to win by any margin.

“What a night!” a relieved-sounding Romney gushed in his Michigan victory speech. “We didn’t win by a lot, but we won by enough.”

Until Tuesday, no Republican governor had seen the candidate he or she had endorsed actually win in that state in 2012. But now, both Michigan’s Rick Snyder and Arizona’s Jan Brewer can make that claim.

“Governor Romney is on a great path to victory,” Snyder proclaimed as the vote totals rolled in, while proclaiming Michigan “the comeback state.” It may not last long. Washington state holds caucuses on Saturday, and 10 more states, including the all-important Ohio hold their contests next week on “Super Tuesday.”

“Washington, here we come!” proclaimed Ann Romney as she introduced her husband to the crowd at the candidate’s headquarters in Novi, Mich. “We’re going to take back America, and we’re going to let this guy do it.”

It wasn’t clear whether Mrs. Romney meant Washington state, or Washington, D.C., but either way, the Romneys indicated that they are aware this contest will continue. “We’ve got four candidates all battling it out,” Romney said when it was his turn to claim Tuesday’s double-barrel victory. “This isn’t going to be over in a day or two.”

That was a nice way of saying that the palpable ill will among the candidates, not to mention the rampant egos loose in the 2012 campaign, suggests that none of Romney’s rivals will get out soon. But in winning all 29 of Arizona’s delegates Tuesday night and winning about half of Michigan’s 30, Romney now has more delegates than Santorum, Gingrich and Paul put together.

Whether he can continue the momentum he earned last night is anyone’s guess, but there are several positive signs for Romney -- and a couple of negative ones. On the plus side for the front-runner, it has become clear that Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich lack the deep pockets and broad-cased appeal for a truly national campaign effort. Gingrich, who has confidently predicted Romney’s demise for the better part of two months, is now reduced to angling for a Super Tuesday win in Georgia, the site of his old congressional district, but a place he never ran in statewide.

The Super Tuesday calendar for Santorum looks more promising, although there’s certainly a possibility that the aroma of some of his malodorous moves in Michigan will trail him to the Buckeye State.

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Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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