Mich. trees are right height; Romney margin quite short

Maybe it was that recent appearance on-stage in Royal Oak with bad-boy Kid Rock that narrowly put millionaire businessman Mitt Romney over the top with Michigan’s Republicans. Really, if you are looking to send the message to voters that you are a family values, church-going kind conservative, who wouldn’t want the Kid at their side?

Perhaps it was the harkening back to his roots here, with the profound observation that the Wolverine State’s trees are just the right height (and also width, as David Letterman jibed in his Top 10 list poking fun at the Mittster) that assured voters that the transplanted son of a three-term Michigan governor really is one of us.

Or it could be that, in a bid to regain favor with all the auto-industry dependents possibly disenchanted with Romney’s “Let Detroit go bankrupt” attitude toward  saving GM and Chrysler, his pointing out that Mrs. Romney drives a couple of Cadillacs made a difference with the working class his desperately trying to woo.

Then again, the down-home NASCAR types might have been convinced that Romney really understood them when he went to the Daytona 500 and pointed out that, although he’s not all that hot on the races themselves, he’s good pals with a few of the super rich guys who own racing teams.

In other words, it appears that Mitt Romney just won Michigan in spite of himself.

That steady show of political tone-deafness is what one pundit generously described as Mittie’s “populist blind spots.” Less generously, they are signs that, no matter how hard he tries to connect with average voters who are struggling to survive in post-industrial America, Romney is hopelessly out of touch with the tough times facing most of us.

Fortunately for him, slightly less than 40 percent of the GOP’s primary voters (receiving some mischief-making help from Democrats) actually think our next president should be a guy who wants to drag us to a place where there is no separation between church and state, and, when it comes to reproductive rights, women are treated as the mere chattel his God intended them to be.

And so, after fending off a surprisingly strong showing by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Romney leaves Michigan having captured 41 percent of the vote — compared to 39 percent for Santorum — in a brutal match that was supposed to have been a cakewalk for him.

Although much of the media focus zeros in on the fact that Romney held on to win the overall state vote, it is important to point out that, in terms of the actual delegates needed to capture the Republican Party nomination, native son Romney appears to have spent millions to leave the state splitting the delegate count with his arch-conservative rival.

As blogger Jed Lewison, senior policy editor at the online site dailykos.com, pointed out:

The good news for Mitt Romney from Michigan is that he won. The bad news is that even though it cost him and his Super PAC $4.3 million in television and radio advertising, he'll end up splitting the state's delegates with Rick Santorum.

Michigan awards two delegates for each of its 14 congressional districts plus two delegates split proportionally based on statewide vote totals, and as of now, Romney and Santorum are splitting the districts evenly. The results could change

but as of now, it's a 15-15 split. If you're doing the math, that works out to a little more than $285,000 per delegate. That's about twice as much as Rick Santorum and his Super PAC spent. (Santorum's campaign is saying it could still win more delegates.)

In Arizona, a state that violated GOP rules by awarding its delegates on a winner-take-all basis (setting the stage for a potential challenge should this fight continue all the way to the convention in August), Romney cruised to a convincing victory.

Back in Michigan, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, standard-bearer of the GOP’s libertarian wing, gathered 12 percent off the vote. Newt Gingrich was mostly a non-factor here, concentrating efforts to revive his flagging campaign on upcoming elections in the South.

So now the candidates move on, first to Washington state, where caucuses will be held Saturday, and then to next week’s Super Tuesday, where nominating contests will be held in 10 states.

Michigan was considered to be a must-win state for Romney, and he did what he had to in order to get that victory.

However, Romney leaves this state where the trees are just the right height, carrying the weight of a question that continues to haunt him: will he ever be able to connect with the parties ultra-conservative base — the Tea Partiers and fundamentalist Christians — in a way that ignites their passion, causing them to pour time, energy and money into his bid for the presidency?

The results here are telling. Romney received strong in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, while Santorum did better in the rest of the state, where social conservatives tend to have a louder political voice.

Certainly, Romney’s crucial victory here will quiet conjecture about the possibility of a brokered convention (see MT’s cover story 2/22/12 cover story “Michigan Cage Match”).

So the questions about his ability to capture the GOP nomination haven’t disappeared completely. At least not just yet.

As the Washington Post reported:

Assuming Romney and Santorum win exactly half the delegates in Michigan, Romney would then be up to 167 delegates overall, compared to 87 for Santorum, according to AP projections.

A candidate needs 1,144 delegates to secure the nomination, though, so there is still a long, long way to go.

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