On to Michigan – McCain vs. Romney

John McCain and Mitt Romney Battle for Michigan Because the primaries are front-loaded, there’s no rest for the weary this cycle. John McCain and Mitt Romney are already in Michigan, battling to win next Tuesday’s primary. (Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani are sitting this one out for strategic reasons. No word on Fred Thompson who is, for the moment at least, still running for president. Ditto Duncan Hunter and Ron Paul.)

Both men need to win.

Romney is the favorite son. His father was once the state’s governor, after all. And he needs to win something after coming in second in both Iowa and New Hampshire. (It’s true, as Dave Schuler noted earlier, that Romney has more delegates than the rest of the field combined. Perception is everything at this stage of the game, though.)

McCain is running out of money and needs to re-establish himself as a favorite before the onslaught of Super Duper Tuesday.

“I think McCain will have a good showing, but if he doesn’t win, this could almost be it for him,” said John Truscott, a Republican consultant and spokesman for former Michigan Gov. John Engler.

John Yob, campaign chairman for McCain in Michigan, said New Hampshire’s convincing victory will give the campaign the boost it needs. “This will be a repeat of 2000,” Yob said, referring to McCain’s Michigan victory in the 2000 presidential primary. “And we’ll win on the strength of Republicans and independents.”

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, has raised $62.8 million, including $17 million of his own money, while McCain has raised $32.1 million, according to campaign finance reports filed in October. The next fund-raising reports are due Jan. 31.

Romney can survive a second-place finish in Michigan and still win the Republican nomination, said political consultant Craig Ruff of Public Sector Consultants in Lansing. “Romney could be bridesmaid in a dozen states and still come out a winner. It depends on whether or not there is a bride who starts consistently winning,” he said. “It is possible that the Republicans could go into the convention without a clear nominee. And Romney could continue to run second or third and come into the convention with enough delegates to be a compromise choice.”

Technically, that’s true. Romney becomes increasingly implausible, though, with each loss. And losing two states in his own backyard to McCain would inflict a mortal wound.

What about the Democrats, you say? Well, they’re skipping this one.

None of the major Democratic candidates are campaigning in Michigan, and the only top-tier candidate on the ballot is New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. Other Democrats pulled their names from the ballot because Michigan violated national party rules with its early primary.

So, this is a Republican-only — indeed, a McCain-Romney only — affair.

Photo credit: NY Sun

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    The state Democratic parties in Michigan and Florida have, presumably unknowingly, done quite a bit of damage to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. As I’ve said before she’ll miss those delegates.

    My guess on the Republican Michigan primary is that it’ll be an effective tie. McCain may win narrowly or he may lose narrowly.

    On Feb 5 a lot will shake out in both parties. This cycle has been so goofy that I also expect there will be a call for a national primary (which I’m not certain would be a good thing).

  2. yetanotherjohn says:

    I predict a McCain win and here is why.

    The Michigan primary allows for independents (and even democrats) to vote in the republican primary. Given that there is no democratic race (by virtue of the DNC) they will flood the republican primary.

    Now who are they likely to want? Those who show up with ill intent for the GOP will find the most Kuchnik like candidate to vote for (fill in your own blank as to who that is). Those who are making a more honest selection will basically have the usual suspects to consider. I think they will break overwhelmingly for McCain.

    If McCain hadn’t won NH, it would be a different story. But with NH I think he pulls out a win in Michigan.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Good point, yaj, and you may be right. Another unforeseen secondary effect.

  4. Bruce Moomaw says:

    I agree with YAJ — keep in mind that McCain beat the snot out of Bush in Michigan in 2000 (his second, and if I remember correctly, last win), and did so with massive help from Independents in a race in which there WAS a Democratic contest and thus no temptation for bored Dems to cross over and vote for McCain.

    However, beyond that the GOP race is still extremely murky — I wouldn’t even count Romney out, nor can I rule out the possibility of a three-way jam-up that would lead to the GOP convention going more than one ballot. Right now, however, I’m also willing to hang on McCain an extremely tentative tag as national GOP front-runner.

  5. yetanotherjohn says:

    To put another spin on it, if McCain does pull out a win in MI, where does that leave Romney?

  6. Grewgills says:

    To put another spin on it, if McCain does pull out a win in MI, where does that leave Romney?

    With Thompson and Hunter.

  7. legion says:

    I dunno guys… what are the chances that Dems and Indys will instead vote for the GOP candidate they’d rather run against?

    I too find McCain to be the least-repugnant GOP hopeful, but I’d rather see (almost) anyone with a ‘D’ after their name in the WH next year than him. I know it’s not the right thing to do, but if I lived in MI, I’d be tempted to vote for a complete nutter like RP or Huck, or maybe a no-hope like Freddie or Hunter just to keep the GOP in chaos for awhile longer.

  8. just me says:

    Legion that is exactly why I am not keen on open primaries.

    Having an independant vote “for” somebody they like is one thing, but purposefully choosing a person to vote for to cause chaos in a party is just pure crappy behavior.

  9. yetanotherjohn says:

    As I said, and Legion is a prime example, those who wish the GOP ill will vote for the Kucinich equivalent. And as Legion’s own post shows, that vote will get scattered among several different candidates and essentially wiped out as a result. Those who are acting with a more worthy purpose (such as who would make the best president even if I prefer democrats in general) and those independents who aren’t trying to stick a spoke in the GOP wheel will be the ones who really tip the balance.

    FYI, poll out that show McCain leading Romney by 9 points in MI.