Menzies House U.S. Politics Editor Amir Iljazi gives an updated analysis of the looming contests in the GOP Primary
There has been a lag in the GOP race since the Florida Primary which saw Mitt Romney turn his seemingly waning fortunes into political gold in a most impressive win in a state that is in and of itself a microcosm of the American electorate. In the weeks following, we saw a stunning resurgence of Iowa winner Senator Rick Santorum as he won 3 contests that on the face are meaningless victories, but gave new momentum to someone thought to be the candidate who could take on Romney for the nomination.
Romney (left), Santorum (center) both vying to take on Obama (right)
However, a few weeks of headlines and some strong focus on his views when it comes to what the media refers to as the “culture wars” combined with an utter disaster of a debate performance it appears Governor Romney has reasserted his position as the frontrunner in the GOP contest and what happens Tuesday night will absolutely determine the way forward this race.
The state of Arizona is perfect turf for Governor Romney as there are a number of Mormon voters, he appeals to the Mountain West voters and has going back to 2008, and he also has the endorsements of the two most powerful politicians in the state: First, Governor Jan Brewer who for all the bashing and fodder she has received from those the elite media and DC establishment was able to win a resounding electoral victory in 2010 and was vindicated for her aggressive approach to the issue of illegal immigration which has plagued her state more so than others in recent years.
Gov. Romney (above) looking to finish strong in MI and AZ
The other is 2008 GOP Presidential Nominee Senator John McCain, who is still taking on the President even years after Obama defeated him in the General Election. Early signs are showing Romney with an edge, as the momentum in the state appears to be with him. Romney is going to take the Arizona Primary and the entirety of the winner-take-all delegates that come with it. He could win by 1% and it wouldn’t matter… but I suspect he may win by a generous margin.
PREDICITION: Romney wins AZ, earning at least 40% of the vote
The state of Michigan is really the prize that all of the focus appears to be on at this crucial moment in the GOP Primary battle, and for good reason. The polls in Michigan have been surprisingly strong for Senator Santorum, but last week’s debate and the all of the focus on many social issues have appeared to damage his prospects of scoring what would be the upset victory that could shake the entire race up and put us essentially at ground zero and make it anyone’s game heading into Super Tuesday. This is a state that nobody thought Romney would lose a month ago, especially after he was able to secure a convincing win in Florida. He has deep roots in the state as he was born and raised there; his father (George Romney) was the Governor some decades ago; and he won the state by 9% during his 2008 run. Michigan exposes every problem that Romney has had in this race, and the results on Tuesday will have a defining effect on what happens going forward. If Romney can win MI (assuming he wins AZ too) he will have massive momentum heading into Super Tuesday March 6th, where 10 states will be voting and more than 400 delegates will be up for grabs. Michigan could be for Romney in 2012 what FL was for McCain in 2008… the springboard to the nomination.
Sen. Santorum (above) looking to upset Romney, and conventional wisdom
However, should Santorum pull off this upset, and it would be an upset considering the built-in advantages Romney has (not to mention the money advantage), should Santorum win in Michigan on Tuesday night the entire GOP race would be reset, and we would essentially be on the verge of what could be a long and protracted battle lasting months with the possibility of having finished every primary contest without having a nominee. I am reluctant to discuss the idea of a “contested convention” but a Santorum victory in Michigan could expose Romney in such a way that he becomes unacceptable. The trends do favor Romney, but there is always the possibility in a race as volatile as this one that anything can happen.
PREDICITION: Romney wins MI, by a margin of at least 5%
The Tuesday contests in Michigan and Arizona are a precursor to Super Tuesday and Romney’s last chance to seal this before it could get really ugly. Should Governor Romney fail to close the deal in the state he was raised in, where his father served as Governor, where he won four years ago by a nearly double-digit margin… it will call into question the very rationale of his candidacy. Romney is running on a message of fixing the economic conditions in America; if he can’t win in a GOP Primary in a state as economically devastated as Michigan (with all the other advantages discussed prior), then he can’t win anywhere.
Amir Iljazi is the U.S. Politics Editor of Menzies House. He earned his Master's Degree in Political Science at American University in Washington, D.C. and currently resides in Tampa, Florida. Before relocating back to Florida, he specialized in longitudinal campaign tracking and voter trends for Federal Races nationwide while working for a Washington DC based center-right political advocacy organisation. You may follow him on Twitter@Michi83