Rick Santorum Showed Well In Michigan Primary, But Missed His Chances to Overthrow Mitt Romney

Arizona and Michigan are not normally make or break election states but in this topsy-turvy 2012 election cycle, Tuesday night’s GOP primaries are almost as important as New Hampshire and Florida. While Arizona was an all but assured win for long-time frontrunner Romney, his birth state of Michigan was surprisingly Rick Santorum's for the taking.

Romney was ultimately pronounced the winner in both primaries and made out with some important delegates, this can’t be entirely seen as a victory for the former Massachusetts governor. Sure, he was able to stave off a massive upset in his home state, but it was still too close to call. In what should have been a run away night for Romney, he had to scratch and claw to victory, thus leaving the door ever so slightly ajar. Tuesday night’s primary signaled the end of the road for the former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Congressman Ron Paul from Texas, but merely marked the continuation of what will be assuredly be a tightly contested race from here on out between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. Santorum has firmly closed the gap on Romney, however a few missteps cost him a chance to deal him a crippling blow.

With the wins, Romney will continue his commanding lead in the delegate count (165) over Santorum (44), and keeps steadily moving towards a November showdown with President Obama. However, not all is lost for Santorum, as he can raise his head high knowing that he gave Romney a hard-fought battle in a state he really had no business competing in. Santorum, a very much pro-manufacturing candidate, took advantage of the state’s manufacturing bloodlines – according to the Michigan Manufactures Association, manufacturing accounts for roughly 21% of the state’s GDP and amounts for roughly 13% of the non-farm employment – and created a wave of support through the state.

If it were not for some questionable decisions during the week, the outcome could have been different for Santorum. He made waves by calling Obama a “snob” for wanting everyone to go to college, and regrettably stated that President Kennedy’s speech on the separation of church and state made him “want to throw up.” It is without a doubt these comments that lost Michigan for him, as he – in some polls – had a commanding lead in the state a week prior to the primary. According to Public Policy Polling, Santorum had a 39% to 24% lead of Romney on Feb. 13, while Inside Michigan Politics had him ahead 43% to 33% on Feb. 15.

Santorum’s stumble is Romney’s gain, as he will now head into the next few primaries knowing that it will take a massive comeback by Santorum to unseat him. The results in Michigan highlight that fact that the Republicans still don’t trust him, but that he may still be the only candidate able to compete against Obama come November. While it hasn’t been pretty, Romney continues to eek out victories, side-stepping controversy and playing it safe, and at this point in time, safe is good.

This race is far from over, as it will likely go to the wire – partially because every candidate in the race is too stubborn to walk away – and as we have already seen, anything can happen.

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