Michigan Neck And Neck In Final Day Of Campaigning

With less than twenty-four hours of campaigning left, the race in Michigan looks to be heading down to the wire:

Mitt Romney’s taken a small lead over Rick Santorum in PPP’s newest Michigan poll. He’s at 39% to 37% for Santorum, 13% for Ron Paul, and 9% for Newt Gingrich. Compared to a week ago Romney’s gained 6 points, while Santorum’s just stayed in place.

Romney will go into election day with a large lead in the bank. Only 16% of Michigan voters say they’ve already cast their ballots, but Romney has a whooping 62-29 advantage over Santorum with that group. Santorum actually leads Romney 39-34 with those who are planning to cast their votes on Tuesday, but he’d need to win election day voters by even more than that to neutralize the advantage Romney’s built up.

The last week of the campaign in Michigan has seen significant damage to Santorum’s image with GOP voters in the state. His net favorability has declined 29 points from +44 (67/23) to now only +15 (54/39). Negative attacks on Romney meanwhile have had no negative effect with his favorability steady at +20 (57/37). Two weeks ago Santorum’s net favorability in Michigan was 34 points better than Romney’s. Now Romney’s is 5 points better than Santorum’s. Those kinds of wild swings are the story of the GOP race.

The biggest factor in Santorum’s decline over the past week? His association with divisive social issues:

One place Santorum may have hurt himself in the last week is an overemphasis on social issues. 69% of voters say they’re generally more concerned with economic issues this year to only 17% who pick social issues. And with the overwhelming majority of voters more concerned about the economy, Romney leads Santorum 45-30. Santorum’s winning those more concerned about social issues 79-12 but it’s just not that big a piece of the pie.

Romney has made significant in roads with all of Santorum’s key groups of support. 2 weeks ago Santorum had leads around 30 points with Evangelicals, Tea Party voters, and those describing themselves as ‘very conservative.’ Santorum’s still winning all those groups, but by significantly diminished margins- it’s only 7 points with Evangelicals and Tea Partiers and 10 with ‘very conservative’ Republicans.

Romney is helped, no doubt, by the fact that Michigan has an open primary, meaning that Republican-leaning independents, who likely aren’t quite as receptive to Santorum’s social conservatism as the GOP base, are able to vote. As we’ve seen in the past, Romney tends to do well in open primary states. Nonetheless, the polls are close enough that the race could go either way tomorrow and, whoever wins, it’s going to be a close victory.

Here’s the RealClearPolitics chart of the race, as you can see this is basically a Santorum-Romney race, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich are non-factors:

This race could take a while to be decided tomorrow night.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Franklin says:

    We’re getting about 4 calls a day, which is highly unusual even during campaign season. They seem to be heavily skewed pro-Romney/anti-Santorum.

  2. @Franklin:

    We’re getting about 4 calls a day,

    You have my sympathy

  3. Neil Hudelson says:

    Is there any way for Romney to truly “win” tomorrow?

    I don’t think he’ll be able to spin the Arizona blow-out in his favor, as it will be dismissed due to the high Mormon population (even though delegate wise it’s fairly important).

    In Michigan, unless he has a blow-out, its an optics loss. This is his home state–as he has mentioned in every speech he has made there. His father is beloved. He should be walking away with 70% of the vote. If Santorum even comes within 5-10% of winning, it’s a loss for Romney. A close win for Romney will provide no momentum, while a close loss for Santorum still positions him well for Ohio and Super Tuesday.

  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    This race could take a while to be decided tomorrow night.

    Going off of my last point, that would be even worse. For every day that the race remains undecided, the headlines would essentially read “Romney still hasn’t won his home state.”

    I’m almost starting to feel sorry for the guy.