With a week to go until Super Tuesday, when 10 states hold their primaries, Mitt Romney has won the GOP primaries in Arizona and Michigan. The big question that arises out of Tuesday's result is whether Romney will be able to capitalize his success and garner some much needed momentum.
The result, while hardly surprising, is likely to increase the stability of the Romney campaign and give him a wave, no matter how small, of momentum going into Super Tuesday. Not only does it send a message that he still has strong support even after the Santorum Surge earlier this month, but it also indicates that his strategies towards the race (notably a costly TV campaign and a narrow campaign focus on the economy) is working in states which will be key in the general election against President Barack Obama in November 2012.
Winning tonight takes the pressure slightly off of Romney ahead of Super Tuesday. Although the wins will give Romney the edge going into next week's contests, allowing him to campaign with increased stability and credibility in critical states such as Ohio (where Santorum is currently leading in the polls), the close nature of the race will add a severe damper on the momentum Romney gains on gained.
Santorum’s ability to have a strong showing on Romney’s home grounds indicates that the former governor is still struggling to excite the conservative base. Barely winning your home state doesn’t indicate an ability of a candidate to inspire support or enthuse voters, nor perform convincingly on the central GOP task: beating Obama. Indeed, with the vote as close as it was, it will be easy for the Santorum campaign to spin this as a victory.
Ultimately, regardless of this positive outcome, Romney’s result is dampened by the fact that winning your home state shouldn’t exactly be a surprise. On top of this, the media is unlikely to pedal the "momentum" rhetoric that they are so keen of doing around the other candidates in the race. Perhaps the biggest result was the fact that the strength of Santorum’s campaign meant that Romney had to focus money and time on Michigan, a state that was, until a month ago, in safe hands. This has detracted from his ability to prepare for Super Tuesday, where he will need a strong showing to remain in the driving seat. Romney’s win tonight is unlikely to make the difficult political landscape any less rocky.
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