Santorum Leading Romney In Michigan?

Four years ago, Mitt Romney won the Michigan Republican Primary quite handily. It wasn’t really a surprise, of course, since Romney’s father had been Governor there back in the day and Michigan was considered as much “Romney Country” as Massachusetts was even though he hadn’t lived there in many years. According to a new poll from Public Policy Polling, though, Romney has fallen behind Rick Santorum and is now trailing in what most people thought would be an easy end-of-the-month win for him:

Rick Santorum’s taken a large lead in Michigan’s upcoming Republican primary. He’s at 39% to 24% for Mitt Romney, 12% for Ron Paul, and 11% for Newt Gingrich.

Santorum’s rise is attributable to two major factors: his own personal popularity (a stellar 67/23 favorability) and GOP voters increasingly souring on Gingrich.  Santorum’s becoming something closer and closer to a consensus conservative candidate as Gingrich bleeds support.

Santorum’s winning an outright majority of the Tea Party vote with 53% to 22% for Romney and 10% for Gingrich. He comes close to one with Evangelicals as well at 48% to 20% for Romney and 12% for Gingrich. And he cracks the 50% line with voters identifying as ‘very conservative’ at 51% to 20% for Romney and 10% for Gingrich.

Santorum’s benefiting from the open nature of Michigan’s primary as well. He’s only up by 12 points with actual Republican voters, but he has a 40-21 advantage with the Democrats and independents planning to vote that pushes his overall lead up to 15 points. Santorum is winning by a healthy margin in every region of the state except for Oakland County, where Romney has a 40-26 advantage, and the area around Lansing where Paul actually has an advantage at 30% to 27% for both Romney and Santorum.

(…)

Michigan is perceived as a state where Romney really has a home field advantage, but only 26% of primary voters actually consider him to be a Michigander while 62% do not. Only 39% have a favorable opinion of George Romney with a 46% plurality having no opinion about him.  Romney really doesn’t have some great reservoir of goodwill in Michigan to fall back on. Only 49% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 39% with a negative one. That’s down a net 28 points from our last poll of Michigan in July when he was at +38 (61/23).

For all that, Santorum probably shouldn’t get too comfortable. There is a lot of potential for fluidity in the Michigan race, with only 47% of voters saying they’re strongly committed to their candidate while 53% are open to changing their minds in the next two weeks.

Thanks to that last statistic, you can expect that the race in the Wolverine State will get a lot more heated over the next 15 days. Most likely, Romney will attempt something similar against Santorum to what helped win him Florida two weeks ago; a relentlessly negative media saturation campaign. The problem for the Romney campaign is that it seems to be more difficult to run a negative campaign against Santorum than it was against Gingrich. Say what you will about him, but Santorum at least comes across as a likeable person and doesn’t have nearly the amount of baggage that Santorum did. That said, there is plenty in Santorum’s own record to call his fiscal conservative bona fides into doubt so, I’m sure the Romney campaign will give it try. What I’m not sure of if it’s going to work like it did in Florida. This much I am sure of, though. If Mitt Romney happens to lose Michigan it’s going to be a pretty devastating blow to the electability argument, which is all Romney really has in the end.

It’s worth noting, of course, that there’s a possibility that this poll is an outlier. Up until now, all previous polling in Michigan showed Romney with a comfortable lead. There is a poll from ARG out this morning that also shows Santorum leading, but ARG’s polling hasn’t been all that reliable so I’m not going to count that as corroboration of the PPP results just yet. Nonetheless, Romney possibly trailing in Michigan is big news and the next two weeks should be very interesting.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, 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. Ron Beasley says:

    I think there is a sub-current here – the Catholic hierarchy. They don’t like the Mormons and don’t really want to see one in the White House. It has less to do with Religious orthodoxy than it does with power. The Church of Latter Day Saints is growing while the Catholic Church is falling. The Bishops fear the increasing power of the Mormons.

  2. Hey Norm says:

    Remember…Romney supported letting the Auto-Industry collapse. That particular Libertarian wet-dream is going to be a hard sell in Michigan….where hundreds of thousands of real people would have lost real jobs.

  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    If Romney loses in MI or even if he wins narrowly it’s going to be something of a shot heard around the world. And Santorum isn’t in the least likeable, he’s a genuine theocratic zealot. Romney’s problem is that this doesn’t constitute serious baggage for many Republican voters but is in fact a recommendation.

  4. MBunge says:

    “Santorum at least comes across as a likeable person and doesn’t have nearly the amount of baggage”

    Senator Man-on-Dog has baggage that’s nearly as bad as Gingrich and what he lacks in personal misbehavior he makes up for with a nearly Medieval perspective on many social issues. If you think a guy who believe contraception is a serious threat to the moral order is somehow less problematic than the guy who wants to build a Moon base, think again.

    The only difference is that conservatives will not unanimously flay Santorum alive in the media, but not because he’s less objectionable than Gingrich. It’s because they don’t have an easy excuse for turning on him, as they did with Gingrich’s despicable personal life.

    Mike

  5. PJ says:

    So, Romney will have to go negative against Santorum much like what he did to Gingrich in Iowa and Florida. This will then piss of Santorum supporters in the general election.
    Romney will also have to further pander to the Republican right wing base, something he obviously had hoped to avoid. This will make further erode his support among independents.

    Obama must be ecstatic..

    I know I am.

  6. An Interested Party says:

    Conservatives who are hoping for a repeat of 2010 should brace themselves for a repeat of 2004…

  7. DRS says:

    The problem with going negative on Santorum is that – unlike Gingrich – Santorum walks the talk in his personal life. No bimbos, no interns, large family, adoring wife, talks about God lots and lots – I could see the Christians getting their backs up at any criticism from someone whose religion many of them have issues with. I’m not so sure that hitting him as a Washington insider would work with Santorum’s base – as a strong Christian, he automatically gets outside cred from the crowd that considered itself marginalized and put upon in society. Romney is going to have to be VERY careful how he handles this. He can’t just say “Come on, the guy’s an idiot” because the blowback will scorch his hair off.

  8. Fiona says:

    Santorum isn’t so much likeable as he is non-hypocritical. Unlike Romney, who’ll say whatever it takes to get elected, or Gingrich, who seemingly believes whatever he’s saying at the moment even if he said something almost opposite only a day or two before, Santorum has principles and stands by them. Even if many of them are downright medieval.

    And he’s not completely odious. His life story and personal life make him sympathetic to a lot of people. He’s certainly closer to middle and working class voters than the wonky, angry Gingrich or the out-of-touch always rich white guy Romney. He’s certainly open to attack on his politics, but since both Romney and Gingrich have ceded so much to the far right, it’s questionable how much room there is for attack. Trying to attack him on a more personal level might come back to bite the attacker.

  9. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Conservatives who are hoping for a repeat of 2010 should brace themselves for a repeat of 2004…

    No, a repeat of 1964.

  10. Ben says:

    You can almost hear Obama’s PACs licking their chops. The commercials attacking Rick “party like it’s 1699” Santorum basically write themselves.

  11. VG says:

    “…but Santorum at least comes across as a likeable person and doesn’t have nearly the amount of baggage that Santorum did…”

    The guy is medieval when it comes to social issues. I mean you must be in the dumps in that regard for even Sarah Palin to call you a knuckle headed neanderthal. The guy thinks professional women have been a bad thing for the society. Every one is trying to move on, this nimrod is still speaking of Jihadists. Every foreign policy issue is a jihadist one for him. There is a reaon why a search for him yields nothing but articles on bigotry, a reason why he is the last of the many who started the primaries to get a look by unfulfilled conservatives, a reason why his own state recalled him from senate by an overwhelming majority (16 points). He is a joke. Just another straw some people are clutching. Fact of the matter is no true conservative had the guts to take on Obama. They would rather wait for 2016. Romney is the best of the lot that’s left.

  12. Jr says:

    Mitt actually has to show voters why they should vote for him, going negative against Frothy isn’t going to work as well as it did Newt. He may be stuck in the 17th century, but he does come off as a clean cut guy.

  13. JohnMcC says:

    Well, as amazing as it seems the Congressional Repubs seem ready to seriously make a ‘conscience’ exemption for employers who do not wish their women employees to use contraception. Which would create a novel situation with the Equal Employment Opportunity people, who I understand declared the lack of that coverage to be discrimination back during the GWBush era. So it is perhaps not completely incongruent that Mr Santorum who does not consider that there is a right to privacy in our Constitution would be their candidate.

    What jet stream did these jokers get caught in that is whisking them off the starboard rail and straight to never-never-land? Do they not think Americans will defend their right to privacy and the pill at the polling place?

  14. An Interested Party says:

    No, a repeat of 1964.

    If the GOP nominee is Santorum or Gingrich, definitely…if it is Romney, the race will probably be closer….