Romney poised for win in Arizona but Michigan in balance

Tue, Feb 28, 2012, 00:00

MITT ROMNEY is expected to win the Arizona primary today, but his fate is less certain in the more important contest in his home state of Michigan.

Over the past week, Mr Romney has reversed the tide in his favour. Only a week ago, the socially conservative former senator Rick Santorum led national polls with 36 per cent of support compared to 26 per cent for Mr Romney.

A Gallup poll published yesterday showed Mr Romney at 31 per cent, to 26 per cent for Mr Santorum, though a Politico/GWU poll showed Mr Santorum ahead at 36 per cent to 34 per cent for Mr Romney.

If Mr Romney wins both states, he will regain his status as a weak front-runner. He has won four of the nine contests so far.

Mr Santorum has also won four, and the former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich won one.

If Mr Santorum wins Michigan, Mr Romney will continue fighting, but the Republican nomination process will drag out even longer. Polls show a majority of Republicans still believe that Mr Romney will be the eventual nominee.

The winner will also benefit from momentum going into the March 6th “Super Tuesday” contest across 10 states, where 419 of the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination will be awarded.

Mr Romney and Mr Santorum campaigned across Michigan on the eve of the primary, with Mr Santorum scheduling events in Livonia, Lansing and Kalamazoo, and Mr Romney making speeches in Rockford, Albion and Royal Oak.

Both men focused their remarks on the economy, with Mr Romney dropping his barbed comments of recent days about Mr Santorum’s exploitation of earmarks (pet projects) in Congress and his past support for Senator Arlen Specter, who later became a Democrat and voted for President Obama’s healthcare Bill.

“Senator Santorum’s a nice guy, but he’s never had a job in the private sector,” Mr Romney told a rally in Rockford.

Mr Romney mocked an opinion piece published by Mr Santorum in the Wall Street Journal, saying, “I’m glad he recognises this is going to be a campaign about the economy. It’s time for him to really focus on the economy and for you to all say, ‘Okay if the economy is going to be the issue, we focus on who has the experience to actually get this economy going again’.”

Mr Santorum, who frequently speaks in churches, chose a local chamber of commerce in Livonia instead yesterday in which to highlight his proposals for lowering corporation tax and eliminating tax altogether for manufacturers.

But Mr Santorum was unable to resist returning to the issues of religion and the alleged persecution of conservatives. “The state has no business telling the church what to do,” he said. The media and the left “mock conservatives . . . mock the values that built this country”, he continued.

The rough competition for the Republican nomination is helping President Obama, who received a 53 per cent approval rating in yesterday’s Politico/GWU poll, an increase of 9 percentage points in four months.

The same poll showed Mr Obama would defeat Mr Romney by 53 to 43 per cent and Mr Santorum by 53 to 42 per cent.