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Michigan’s Verdict
Our experts weigh the evidence.

The Romney victory rally in Novi, Mich., February 28, 2012.

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John Fund
Mitt Romney scored two impressive wins on Tuesday night. He won Arizona by a clear margin of more than 20 points, a big enough victory that he would have won even if none of the voters in the most pro-Romney demographic (the one-ninth of the electorate who were Mormons) had shown up at the polls.

In Michigan, exit polling showed that 52 percent of primary voters were tea-party supporters. Romney actually carried those voters narrowly. In Arizona, where almost two-thirds of primary voters identified with the Tea Party, Romney carried that group by seven points. If the Tea Party can be considered the fiscal-conservative heart of the Republican party, Romney fared better with that group tonight than anyone else.

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Santorum did well with evangelical and pro-life voters, but the clear implication of the night’s results is that he has trouble building a truly across-the-board coalition. Romney came closer to that on Tuesday night, and if he replicates his Michigan showing in Ohio on Super Tuesday, he will be much closer to wrapping up the nomination.

John Fund is a columnist and writer based in New York. He is the author of Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy.
 


Hugh Hewitt
As of Tuesday night, it appears that Mitt Romney has romped in Arizona, and has rebounded to a win in Michigan — and a comfortable win at that, especially in light of the Left’s failed “Operation Hilarity.”

Which means he will be the GOP nominee.

Really, it does.

A prediction isn’t an endorsement, and I hasten to add I will continue to welcome Senator Santorum on to my show and engage in the sort of conversations we had on Tuesday — serious, substantive reviews of key issues about the country’s direction and the distortions of his message put forward by the MSM. (That transcript, about the MSM’s deeply ignorant and/or deceptive descriptions of what freedom of religion means and of Santorum’s views on the Constitution’s guarantees, deserves a close read by anyone really interested in the senator’s views.)

But it does seem to me that Romney has won four out of five big primaries with tens of thousands and, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of voters streaming to the polls. He has won New Hampshire, Florida, and Arizona, which are “must wins” in the fall if the GOP is to get 1600 back; and his organization is getting better and better, learning from mistakes like the Ford Field fiasco, on how to run the general-election campaign. The candidate is also learning how and how not to talk about the issues with an ever-present and very hostile MSM waiting to declare another gaffe that helps the president’s narrative dominate the reporting.

One hopes that Romney will copy Santorum’s approach to conservative media and increase the frequency and duration of his engagement with it, and his jocularity about his gaffes, thus defusing those past and future. Whether he does or not, the probability of a Romney nomination, always high, got near certainty tonight.

The GOP’s fatigue with this process will be a factor next week. There is a growing desire to turn the focus back to the president and his ruinous tenure. Mitt Romney set up Super Tuesday in the best way possible, and the center-right’s desire to get to the main event will propel him through the next seven days.

Hugh Hewitt is the host of the nationally syndicated Hugh Hewitt Show.
 


Quin Hillyer
Mitt Romney barely escaped Tuesday with his campaign intact, while Rick Santorum showed that he can take a punch a lot better than Newt Gingrich can, and that he has real staying power. That said, Santorum also showed that he needs to do a better job of anticipating attacks and parrying them. Romney, for his part, showed for the first time that his campaign can react on the fly, as he turned a wholly unexceptional Santorum robo-call into a major campaign story in the past day, very much to his advantage. 

In short, both campaigns move forward without a lot of momentum, but both move forward with reasonable claims of potential strength. In this case, though, Romney comes out in better shape, because he just keeps adding to his delegate lead — even though the narrowness of his win in his home state really ought to be seen as highly embarrassing.

Yet Rick Santorum, as the under-financed underdog, needs to expand his appeal to new constituencies. He needs to appeal economically to Ron Paul libertarians so he can peel off votes from Paul. He needs to appeal to tea partiers by mentioning “side” issues such as the Common Core education standards (among others), which they care deeply about and which he should oppose strenuously. He should talk about the importance of judges, and about cleaning out the horrid leftists from the Justice Department. Finally, he needs to figure out the puzzle of why he actually is losing slightly among Catholics — and turn that around, quickly.

This race isn’t even close to a resolution, but Santorum still has a bit of an uphill climb. He’s lucky that Romney has far less appeal than money.

— Quin Hillyer is a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom and a senior editor for The American Spectator.



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