Michigan Too Close To Call

The future of the Republican race in 2012 is in the balance in the Wolverine State.

In more ways than one, the future of the Republican race for President is at stake today in the Wolverine State. If Mitt Romney manages to pull off even a narrow victory, and combines it with what looks to be a blowout win in Arizona, then he will have put to rest (at least for a week) the latest round of doubts about his campaign and his inevitability as the Republican nominee for President. If Romney manages to lose, however, then we will spend the next week hearing, probably justifiably, about a Republican Party in chaos as the guy that most serious party leaders see as their best chance to win in November defeated in his home state by a guy who seems likely to harm the GOP’s chances to pick up the independent voters and swing states it needs to defeat Barack Obama, not to mention the votes it needs to retake the Senate.

The way things stand right now in Michigan, one has to think that Republican insiders are more than a little bit nervous. Just take a look at the latest Public Policy Polling poll:

PPP’s final poll in Michigan finds Rick Santorum holding on to the smallest of leads with 38% to 37% for Mitt Romney, 14% for Ron Paul, and 9% for Newt Gingrich.

It’s always good to be cautious with one night poll numbers, but momentum seems to be swinging in Santorum’s direction. Romney led with those interviewed on Sunday, but Santorum has a 39-34 advantage with folks polled on Monday. The best sign that things have gone back toward Santorum might be that with those polled today who hadn’t already voted, Santorum’s advantage was 41-31.

Much has been made of Democratic efforts to turn out the vote for Santorum and we see evidence that’s actually happening. Romney leads with actual Republican voters, 43-38. But Santorum’s up 47-10 with Democratic voters, and even though they’re only 8% of the likely electorate that’s enough to put him over the top. The big question now is whether those folks will actually bother to show up and vote tomorrow.

The issue of crossover voting in the Republican primary has become an issue in the final hours of the campaign, thanks in no small part to what appears to be a conscious effort on the part of the Santorum campaign to appeal to working-calls Democratic voters:

Michigan Democratic strategist Joe DiSano has taken it upon himself to become a leading mischief maker.

DiSano says he targeted nearly 50,000 Democratic voters in Michigan through email and a robo call to their homes, asking them to go to the polls Tuesday to vote for Rick Santorum in attempt to hurt Romney.

“Democrats can get in there and cause havoc for Romney all the way to the Republican convention,” DiSano told CNN.

“If we can help set that fire in Michigan, we have a responsibility to do so,” he said.

Santorum is statistically tied with Romney in Michigan polls, and has the greatest potential of all the Republican candidates to beat Romney.

In his robo call, DiSano says “Democrats can embarrass Mitt Romney and expose him as the weak frontrunner that he is, by supporting Rick Santorum on Tuesday.”

(…)

Santorum’s campaign, meanwhile, confirmed it was also using a robo call urging Michigan Democrats to cross over and vote for Santorum on Tuesday.

It’s hard to believe that crossover votes will be a huge factor today. In 2008, only 7% of the people voting in the Michigan Republican Primary identified themselves as Democrats. Of course this was a year when the Democrats had their own contested primary in Michigan, although it was one that none of the major candidates actively participated because of the sanctions that the Democratic National Committee had placed on the state Democratic Party for scheduling their primary early in violation of party rules. In fact, Barack Obama’s name was not even on the Michigan ballot in January 2008 (although “Uncommitted” did win just under 40% of the vote). At the same time, though, given how close the polls are even a small crossover vote for Santorum could make a huge difference at the end of the day.

Nate Silver also finds a late momentum shift in favor of Santorum:

People sometimes apply the term “tossup” a bit too broadly, using it to refer to anything close enough that they don’t want to render a prediction about it.

In Michigan, however, the term is appropriate. Rick Santorum, who once trailed Mitt Romney badly in the state, then surged to a clear lead there, then saw Mr. Romney regain his footing and pull back ahead, appears to have some late momentum in the race — perhaps just enough to win, and perhaps not.

However things turn out on Tuesday, this has been a dramatic enough sequence that it demands some explanation. It is unlikely that Mr. Santorum’s last-minute rebound is purely a statistical fluke. There is a fairly rich amount of polling in the state and, importantly, Mr. Santorum has gained ground in consecutive polls issued by the same survey firms. In the Baydoun Consulting poll, for instance, which had him down by two points on Monday, he had trailed by eight points just days earlier. So the rebound is probably real.

Silver’s prediction model now gives Romney a 55% chance to win the state today, and Santorum a 45% chance. The question for Santorum is whether the late momentum, and any potential crossover votes would be enough to overcome Romney’s apparent advantage in early voting. A number reflected in the PPP poll:

[T]here’s one big reason to think that Romney will still come out as the winner tomorrow night. 18% of the electorate has already cast its ballots and with those voters in the bank Romney has a 56-29 advantage. Santorum’s likely to win election day voters, but he”s going to have to do it by a wide margin to erase the lead Romney has stored. We see Santorum with a 40-33 advantage among those who have yet to vote.

It all comes down, then, to turnout today. If turnout is high then Santorum would probably be able to overcome Romney’s early voting advantage. My personal prediction, and it’s really nothing more than a guess at this point, is that Romney manages to pull off an exceedingly narrow victory, something less than a 2.5% margin between him and Santorum and probably even smaller than that. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Santorum win tonight either, and if that happens then the Republican race is a whole new ball game.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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.

Comments

  1. DRS says:

    What % did Romney get in Michigan last time?

  2. Jr says:

    My head still says Romney pulls it out, but momentum is on Frothy’s side.

    Should be a fun night.

  3. @DRS:

    2008 results:

    Romney — 38.92%
    McCain — 29.68%
    Huckabee — 16.08%
    Paul — 6.27%

    It’s worth noting that the Michigan Primary took place far earlier in the 2008 cycle than it is in 2012.

  4. legion says:

    Kos and a few other places are tossing around the idea of getting Dems to go out & vote for Santorum, just to screw with them. Could that really have an impact on this race? That’d get exciting real quick…

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    PPP’s final poll in Michigan finds Rick Santorum holding on to the smallest of leads with 38% to 37% for Mitt Romney, 14% for Ron Paul, and 9% for Newt Gingrich.

    Does that 37% include the early voting? If so, he is even weaker there, this time around.

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    If Mitt Romney manages to pull off even a narrow victory, and combines it with what looks to be a blowout win in Arizona, then he will have put to rest (at least for a week) the latest round of doubts about his campaign and his inevitability as the Republican nominee for President. If

    A narrow victory in MI against a zero like Santorum is hardly a victory. Romney should have walked this and everyone two months ago expected him to. Like you I expect him to eak out a narrow victory but winning narrowly or losing narrowly doesn’t make that much difference in terms of visuals or delegate count.

  7. Chris Berez says:

    My personal prediction, and it’s really nothing more than a guess at this point, is that Romney manages to pull off an exceedingly narrow victory, something less than a 2.5% margin between him and Santorum and probably even smaller than that.

    If the winning candidate wins by such a slim margin, are there any chances of the losing candidate demanding a recount? Does that even ever happen in a primary? Both campaigns have an awful lot hinging on this. Is it at all likely that whatever happens in Michigan tonight remains highly contentious even after the results are in?

  8. Kylopod says:

    If Santorum manages to win Michigan (and I suspect he will) and goes on to win the nomination (which I still highly doubt), Romney’s “I like the trees” remark will enter the history textbooks and thereafter be placed alongside macaca-gate and Ford’s Poland gaffe as foot-in-mouth moments with far-reaching consequences, even if there are more plausible explanations for Romney’s defeat. Pundits naturally overestimate the importance of gaffes, and whatever happens you’ve gotta admit this one was a doozy.

  9. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Hell, with this sort of drama CNN’s and MSNBC’s combined audience tonight might spike to around a third of the number of Zombiebots who’ll tune in to “American Idol.”

    Putting that aside, it’s hard to believe that Santorum will win this thing. If he does, however, and Romney is sitting there tomorrow as the weakest presumptive nominee in memory, having not won Michigan, I would have to say that Obama’s reelection chances realistically could be set at 95+ percent.

    Then again, you could make a good argument, as somewhat implied above, that the fact we’re still having to pay close attention to the GOP primary race and to this close contest in Michigan basically means that Obama’s reelection chances already can be considered overwhelming in scope. Let’s just assume that’s the case. Postulate for a moment the irony. Santorum was one of the leading lights of the “Republican revolution” of the 1990’s. Now Santorum is the leading de facto force to help reelect Obama. Astonishing.

  10. mattb says:

    @Kylopod:

    omney’s “I like the trees” remark will enter the history textbooks

    + the football field/empty rally shot — if he loses the nomination, that photo will go down in infamy (if you will).

  11. James says:

    “Yeah, there were a bunch of empty seats. But the important thing is Mitt really connected with those empty seats by also being plastic and uncomfortable

  12. rodney dill says:

    Guess I’ll stop on the way home and vote.

  13. Hey Norm says:

    Sunny and in the low 40’s in Detroit today. Good weather for voter turnout.
    The voter crossover story is hilarious:
    Santorum teams up with The Daily Kos and Obama and gins up Democratic cross-over voting.
    Romney condemns Santorum’s actions as an “outrage” and a “dirty trick”. “”This is politics at its worst. It doesn’t get much more pathetic.”
    Everyone reminds Romney that he has bragged about meddling in Mass. Democratic primaries in the very same way.
    Romney says that was different. Presumedly because the trees are different in Massachusetts.

  14. Hey Norm says:

    I’ll take Frothy McRick by .5%…38.75% to 38.25%.

  15. Hey Norm says:

    Romney beat McCain in Michigan by over 9% in ’08?
    And in ’12 he is squeaking by Santorum, if at all?
    Hard to see that most-electable argument anymore.

  16. Kylopod says:

    >Hard to see that most-electable argument anymore.

    Who among the current candidates do you consider more electable than Romney? Santorum? That’s hard to believe. I’m not saying Romney isn’t a weak candidate–it’s just that the others are even weaker.

  17. grumpy realist says:

    Is Michigan a winner-takes-all state? Or proportionally split?

    The best result evah would be for the exact opposite of the Iowa result: Santorum ostentatiously wins by a squeaker, then there’s a recount/waiting for the last few votes, then they say “my bad”, and Romney goes running around screaming “I won! I won!” but nobody listens…

  18. Hey Norm says:

    @ Kylopod…

    “…Who among the current candidates do you consider more electable than Romney?”

    Obama.

    I just saw that Limbaugh is jumping all over on Romney’s “Hair on Fire” line.

    “…What does this tell you that Romney thinks of the base?”

    I’m not sure Romney hasn’t lost this thing. I mean the whole thing.

  19. Brummagem Joe says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Is Michigan a winner-takes-all state? Or proportionally split?

    It’s a split. Romney could win more votes and less delegates.

  20. Rob in CT says:

    @Hey Norm:

    What’s amazing about that is Romney has been alternating between spouting “hair on fire” rhetoric and attempting to look sane.

    Result: neither the sane nor the insane trust him.

  21. Hey Norm says:

    @ Rob…
    Check out Obama speaking to the UAW today…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=inxnx2fPg2g
    If my name is Romney this election cannot end fast enough.

  22. Brummagem Joe says:

    Interestingly a number of sites have clips up of Obama’s speech at the UAW conference. Definitely in thrills up your leg territory. But even if you’re a bit of cynic as I am it’s an indicator of just how effectively Obama can turn it on when he want’s to and what Romney is going to be up against in the general. I can’t see him producing a tingle in anyone’s little toe.

  23. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Hey Norm:

    Did you get a thrill up your leg Norm? I wouldn’t blame you, it was definitely that old time religion.

  24. G.A. says:
  25. Brummagem Joe says:
  26. Brummagem Joe says:

    @G.A.:

    Is this one to close to call too?

    Sorry counts by Mickey Mouse Republican front groups don’t signify with anyone other than goofballs.

  27. David says:

    @G.A.: Won’t know for three weeks.

  28. David says:

    @Hey Norm: I also thought the crossover voting was funny until I thought, what if Rick gets the nomination, and the economy completely explodes and Rick wins in November”. Wasn’t so funny then. The slightest chance that Rick Santorum could be President is horrifying.

  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Hey Norm: I don’t know Norm. I think that is an Obama impersonator. That guy isn’t using a teleprompter.

  30. Herb says:

    @Brummagem Joe: “Definitely in thrills up your leg territory.”

    While I didn’t feel the thrills, watching that clip did prompt a few thoughts:

    A) Obama is more amused by his competition than scared of it.
    B) Keep telling those Teleprompter jokes, knuckleheads.

  31. c.red says:

    Regarding Democrats voting for Santorum; call me old-fashioned, but I find it unseemly to vote for anyone in a primary that you would be unwilling to vote for on election night (one of the reasons I am absolutely against primaries.) Advocating for it is even more distasteful to me.

    That being said, it looks like Gingrich has non-trivial support that would almost certainly go to Santorum, and I would be willing to bet that more of the Ron Paul vote would move to Santorum than Romney. If either one was not playing the ego card and dropped out Romney would be toast tonight.

    I would say the Romney electability myth should be entirely gone to just about everyone.

  32. Dave Anderson says:

    @Hey Norm: Going back to the great Obama-Clinton flame fests of ought eight now, especially during the Midwest slugfest. Many Clinton partisans made the argument that if Obama could not beat Clinton in Ohio or Michigan or Pennsylvania, he had no chance of winning any the swingier Rust Belt states in the general election.

    The correct counter argument is that in a primary that is mostly if not entirely made up of partisans the preference order is Same Party Candidate 1 > Same Party Candidate 2>Atilla the Hun>General Election candidate of Opposite Party.

    We can not make too many broad demographic conclusions from primary election data that is strongly generalizable to the general election beyond the blindingly obvious (Obama had overwhelming African American support in the mid to late primaries AND had that in the general, more so than generic Democrat would have expected….)

    Romney may have trouble convincing Republican leaning working class white males to vote for him over other Republicans, but he should be able to get his margins with that group against Obama as the most critical part of the description is REPUBLICAN LEANING. Major party nominees will capture their base in the general election if they capture nothing else.

  33. Hey Norm says:

    @ Joe…
    It takes something different than that to send a thrill up my leg.
    But I’m happy to see someone calling BULLSHIT on the Republicans.
    Romney and the rest of the Clown Car Posse have been blithely untethered from reality for most of this primary season…the Republican bubble being what it is. When Romney tries to pivot to the general…this is a taste of what awaits him. Should be fun.

  34. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Dave Anderson:

    Major party nominees will capture their base in the general election if they capture nothing else.

    Er…of course he does. Alf Landon got 36% in 1936 but this is not where elections are decided. Romney is sure of a vote at least in the forties it’s where in the forties he alights.

  35. Hey Norm says:

    @ Dave…

    “…Major party nominees will capture their base in the general election if they capture nothing else…”

    But it is beginning to appear that Romney cannot capture his base. Or if he does it will be begrudgingly. And he’s not a largly unknown Senator from Illinois running against one of the most successful brands in politics. Romney has been running for President for the past 7 years and he’s up against a guy that lost his last race as an incumbent by 18%. He should be crushing him. But he is floundering. Obama may have lost some primaries. I don’t remember him floundering.

  36. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Herb:

    A) Obama is more amused by his competition than scared of it.
    B) Keep telling those Teleprompter jokes, knuckleheads.

    As all great natural speakers are he’s much more effective without the teleprompter. When you look around there’s no one else on the political stage with the exception of Bill Clinton who can handle himself in front of a podium like this. At least I can’t think of anyone. He’s relaxed, empathetic and rabble rousing without appearing crazy. A friendly audience of course but as the campaign gets into the short strokes they’re all friendly audiences.

  37. Hey Norm says:

    Romney moves the goalposts:

    “…I plan to win in Michigan; if for some reason I don’t, I’ve got by far the most delegates. We’ve got states down the road. We’ve got good states in our column and I expect to get the delegates need win. If I’m turned down by Massachusetts – where I lived in for forty years, where I served as governor – that may be harder to explain…”

    So now Massachusetts is his home state???

  38. Moosebreath says:

    “So now Massachusetts is his home state??? ”

    But what height are the trees there?

  39. Kylopod says:

    @Hey Norm: Romney really is a pathetic spin-meister.

  40. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Moosebreath:

    But what height are the trees there?

    The poor B is doomed. Would you want to go through 8 months of working your balls off on the off chance the economy is going to implode. This is not the kind of cost/benefit equation Romney was making at Bain.

  41. Hey Norm says:

    @ Joe…

    “…Would you want to go through 8 months of working your balls off on the off chance the economy is going to implode…”

    Clearly the smart guys in the party thought better of it.

  42. Hey Norm says:

    @ Joe…

    “…Would you want to go through 8 months of working your balls off on the off chance the economy is going to implode…”

    BTW…the Dow closed at 13,000 today. Highest since May, 2008.

  43. Hey Norm says:

    @ Joe…
    Apparently the Market was bouyed by the Consumer Confidence Index, which jumped to 70.8 for February, up from 61.5 in January.

  44. G.A. says:

    Sorry counts by Mickey Mouse Republican front groups don’t signify with anyone other than goofballs.

    lol…dude there are like 800k plus signers and it seems that 280k of them are fabrications and or highly suspect, which means that they probably don’t have the names for the recall but are some lying cheating fraudulent POSes ….

    :

    Won’t know for three weeks.

    Won’t know what? That there is MASIVE FRAUD?

    I know, I told you guys weeks ago when most here celebrated the million plus signature lie, ya, oh well, what ever, proof that liberals are guilty massive voter fraud of the likes that we try to tell the gullible and belligerent has no matter….

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-gov-walker-recall-20120228,0,6597308.story

    lol.. whats this to mean? That he got ****** by some more liberals and the fix is in and that he wants to get this nonsense over with and crush this crap?
    … back to your regularly scheduled bash a Republathon…

  45. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @G.A.:

    Won’t know what? That there is MASIVE FRAUD?

    GA, here is a hint: If you can not spell “massive” (or at least hit the spell check) you are an idiot.

    As to the rest, yeah, you are an idiot.

  46. Tillman says:

    @c.red:

    Regarding Democrats voting for Santorum; call me old-fashioned, but I find it unseemly to vote for anyone in a primary that you would be unwilling to vote for on election night (one of the reasons I am absolutely against primaries.) Advocating for it is even more distasteful to me.

    I used to think like that. Those were the days.

  47. Tillman says:

    @G.A.: Remind me again, that’s the massive fraud that the targeted Governor of Wisconsin isn’t contesting?

    It seems like his supporters are more certain of the fraud than he is. Not a good sign.

  48. Brummagem Joe says:

    @G.A.:

    it seems that 280k of them are fabrications and or highly suspect,

    According to who…. some Mickey Mouse Republican front group….sorry as I said earlier only goofballs believe this, that doesn’t even include Walker himself ….LOL

  49. An Interested Party says:

    I can’t see him producing a tingle in anyone’s little toe.

    No, but perhaps some titillation in some millionaire’s wallet…

    Regarding Democrats voting for Santorum; call me old-fashioned, but I find it unseemly to vote for anyone in a primary that you would be unwilling to vote for on election night (one of the reasons I am absolutely against primaries.) Advocating for it is even more distasteful to me.

    I find the four men left standing in the GOP primary to be unseemly and distasteful and I wouldn’t be surprised if more than a few Republicans felt the same way…

    B) Keep telling those Teleprompter jokes, knuckleheads.

    I guess those two things in front of Mittens were giving him stock quotes…

    So now Massachusetts is his home state???

    Please…he ain’t called Multiple Choice Mitt for nothing…

  50. rodney dill says:

    ’tis a pity for all those frothing at the mouth for a Santorum win.

  51. An Interested Party says:

    ’tis a pity for all those frothing at the mouth for a Santorum win.

    And yet, Romney still has Santorum all over his face as he pursues the GOP nomination…

  52. rodney dill says:

    @An Interested Party: Pardon me, but I think you’ve mistaken me for someone concerned about the outcome. Santorum will likely cause Romney fits for some time and could cost him the nomination, but that is not what my comment was about.

    My comment was about mocking those jonesing for a Santorum win in the comments above, while at the same time slamming him with the Dan Savage slur.

  53. An Interested Party says:

    Pardon me, but I think you’ve mistaken me for someone concerned about the outcome.

    Pardon me, but you obviously mistook my comment for more than just a pun…

  54. rodney dill says:

    @An Interested Party: You are correct. I indeed mistook that your intent was more than just a pun.

  55. matt says:

    @G.A.: Even if 280k of them are invalid that still leaves more signatures then required to recall Walker…

    BTW signing a petition isn’t voting..