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February 29, 2012 8:39 AM Romney Avoids the Abyss

By Ed Kilgore

So depending on how you choose to look at it, Mitt Romney won two crucial Republican primaries last night and resumed his “inevitable” march to the GOP nomination—or, Mitt Romney came within three percentage points of losing his home state and blowing the entire campaign.

My insta-analysis of the Michigan results over at TNR mainly questions how big a “bounce” Romney will get—not so much in the polls, but in the degree to which GOP elites have been reassured. And the answer is not entirely clear. We are about to enter a brief period of truly intense spin wars that will determine whether Romney goes into Super Tuesday needing simply a few wins and a steady rise in delegates, or another virtual wipeout of his opposition.

It’s much clearer what we’d be hearing if Romney had lost Michigan. Yes, Team Romney would have tried to blame it all on Democratic crossover voters, essentially trying to delegitimize the primary altogether. There would have been some brave talk of the Death Star getting down to serious business and crushing all opposition on March 6. But once it really got started, the panicky elite talk about a late entry candidate, which was sure to begin in earnest if Romney had lost, would have drowned out everything else in the media. Should it be Christie? Should it be Jebbie? Should it be Bobby Jindal? Should it be Mitch Daniels? Memes like this quickly gain a life of their own, and Mitt Romney would have become an afterthought, the whole inevitability/electability house of cards crashing down around him. He would have had no loyal band of devotees (at least outside LDS country) to fall back on, no faction of the party that would be deeply offended if he were thrown out like stale bread from yesterday’s sandwich spread.

So Mitt avoided that scenario, for now and maybe for good. But all the weaknesses he showed in the runup to February 28 haven’t just gone away.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Danp on February 29, 2012 8:52 AM:

    Romney should be thanking Dems today. If they hadn't voted the headline would have been, "Does Anybody Care?"

  • T2 on February 29, 2012 9:04 AM:

    Arizona is stacked with Mormon's...lots of Western States are...and they are all GOPers and everyone of them turned out to vote for Mitt. No big surprise win there. MIchigan is Mitt's home state and his Dad was Governor there in the day. No surprise win there, but much closer than it should have been. The take: Mitt still ain't The Guy. The question: will a multi-millionaire Yankee Mormon win anything in the South on Super Tuesday? If he doesn't salvage at least one win, we're right back to the muddle again. And he probably won't. If he hasn't taken command (sounds funny, huh? Mitt in Command) by the time Texas rolls around in late May...which he won't win unless he's the obvious candidate by then, the GOPers will have issues. Don't expect the GOP Elite to exhale any time soon. And watch for Newtmentum to start again.

  • Ron Byers on February 29, 2012 9:06 AM:

    "Does Anybody Care?" My exact feelings about the Republican race at this point. Let's get to the chase and start with the fall campaign already.

    I want to know if the Democrats think they are going to take back the house and how. I am tired of the clown car. I can get all that breathless stuff on an MSM channel.

  • schtick on February 29, 2012 9:09 AM:

    Bobby Jindal reminds me of Pope Ricky. It would all go to his head and he'd be thinking he was the next great dictator spewing out all kinds of dumb shit.
    Speaking of which, I caught part of Mitt Moneys speech about an across the board 20% tax cut. That should do wonders for the economy. The upper 20% would be getting tax refunds from the government, more than they do now, and everyone else would be paying for it?

  • berttheclock on February 29, 2012 9:14 AM:

    In far better news, did anyone catch the videos of President Obama, yesterday, talking, er, Evangelising, to the UAW workers? Cross between a fiery speech to a church crowd of highy enthusiastic born again politicos and raging in a high campaign mode speech to true Democrats. It was a "This joint is jumpin'" moment. Mr President, keep it up.

  • DAY on February 29, 2012 9:18 AM:

    I spent half an hour this morning in a waiting room, watching one of those screwed to the wall TeeVees, tuned to an MSM channel.
    Hate tweets to Miley Cyrus (who?)
    Face and nail treatments of Oscar attendees.
    Stephanopolis (who?) bantering with female co-hosts.

    Certainly, Ron Byer's "Does Anybody Care?" applies there! Soma for all. . .

    I, too, want to hear about the House and the Senate; that would be fresh meat for the pundits who are still trying to make the presidential contest a close one. But it would take some work, and we know how "reporters' are allergic to the concept.

  • Steve P on February 29, 2012 9:21 AM:

    Actually, Michigan may be as great a millstone to the Tea Party as Massachusetts, what with its history of centrist Republican leaders. The current governor is a devoted technocrat who is busy telling the Wild Men to shut up about right-to-work, and Pete Hoekstra made himself a local laughingstock with his "me love you long time Senator Stabenow" ad.

  • Peter C on February 29, 2012 9:22 AM:

    One of the best things to come from this long protracted process is that the whole idea of an 'enthusiasm gap' which favors Republicans is no longer remotely credible. It is obvious that all the Republican presidential candidates are pathetic and even their own party isn't happy with them.

    I'm eager to see the turn-out figures for these primaries; that should be the main story. Even with mischevious Democrats, I'm guessing that turn-out is going to be embarrasingly low.

  • Anonymous on February 29, 2012 9:55 AM:

    You all realize that Mitt's Michigan win was a technical win. He trounced Santorium in the early voting. That shows he has a much stronger ground game than Santorium.

    Two questions.

    Ed, when do you leave? (Our prayers and best wishes to you and your ill loved one.)

    What was the turnout?

  • biggerbox on February 29, 2012 9:57 AM:

    I'm sure the GOP establishment is thinking this means Mitt can do it, but just imagine what would have happened if Ricky had kept his mouth shut about JFK, and hadn't pissed off so many women by showing his true colors on contraception. Mitt had to spend a ton of money, and he still only managed to buy a few points over Santorum, in part due to Santorum digging himself a hole and jumping in it.

    That convention is going to be quite a show. I'll need to buy some more popcorn.

  • berttheclock on February 29, 2012 10:21 AM:

    @Peter C, with one precinct remaining to be counted, the total vote stands at 998,842, In '08, the total vote was 869,169. One interesting comparison is the similarity of uncommitted votes, which is just over 18,000 for both years.

  • bigtuna on February 29, 2012 10:49 AM:

    I dunno. I get the whole "optics" thing - you, declare victory, look presidential, blah blah, but realy, 41-38 is a "win? The margin basically comes from ONE suburban county - Oakland, which is where Willard grew up. This still seems to be pretty weak sauce to me. I think the Detroit Free press projected 14 delegates to Romney and 12 for St. Rick.

    btw - when will some one comment on what happens to all the early state penalized delegate counts - that is, MI jumped the Super tuesday rule, and ony half the delegates were allocated yesterday. What about the other half??

  • snow1985man on February 29, 2012 12:27 PM:

    how does splitting 22 delegates equally count as a win?

  • TCinLA on February 29, 2012 12:40 PM:

    He might have won the moron vote in Michigan, but he'll be blown out of the water 2:1 there in the general.

  • flanders on February 29, 2012 2:49 PM:

    How different would the result have been if early voting hadn't taken place? I feel like the Santorum surge just couldn't catch up to the early advantage Romney had.