Did Mitt Romney Turn a Corner Last Night?
Mike Memoli lays out the score:
Mitt Romney’s tentative hold on the status of GOP frontrunner received a significant boost with victory in Michigan, where he won his native state and fought off a spirited challenge from Rick Santorum.
Combined with a resounding triumph in the winner-take-all state of Arizona, Romney extended his lead in the delegate race and assuaged concerns of party leaders that the GOP race was on track for a prolonged and bitter battle.
Romney, the early favorite, had seen his lead evaporate as Santorum rode the momentum of a trio of wins earlier this month in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri that exposed the degree to which conservatives remained suspicious of the former Massachusetts governor.
But the Santorum campaign’s efforts to push a message tailored toward working-class voters was sidetracked by the candidate’s repeated comments on social issues.
Santorum addressed supporters at his headquarters in Grand Rapids, Mich., shortly after he called Romney to congratulate him on his victory.
“We came to the backyard of one of my opponents,” Santorum said. “And the people of Michigan looked into the hearts of the candidates. And all I have to say is, ‘I love you back.’”
The percentages, with 99 percent of precincts reporting: Romney 41.1 percent, Santorum 37.9 percent, Paul 11.6 percent, Gingrich 6.5 percent, other 2.9 percent. Turnout looks like it’s just under one million. 2008 turnout: About 869,000.
Our Dan Foster provides the highlights:
Of his Michigan win, Romney told an excited crowd in Novi that “We didn’t win by a lot, but we won by enough, and that’s all that matters.”
Romney made little mention of his Republican opponents, and instead focused all his fire on Barack Obama, saying that America couldn’t afford five more years of President Obama “with nothing to answer to.” Criticizing the president’s stewardship of the economy, despite having two years of complete legislative control, Romney quipped: “We need a recovery from this so-called recovery.”
Exurban Jon: “Satan 2, Santo 0.”
Mike Murphy: “Mitt did very well in counties where they actually make cars. Rick didn’t. Media class warfare conventional wisdom was dead wrong.”
The first few minutes of Romney’s victory speech sounded pretty cookie-cutter… but then he seemed to come alive… or, you know, lifelike.
Stephen Hayes: “That staccato Obama contrast riff from Romney was very strong. This is an effective speech – maybe best election-night speech he’s given.”
Bob Costa: “Romney has genuine energy tonight. Not stiff. Conversational. Rare. Good for his campaign. Welcome shift from robot mode.”
Guy Benson: “Romney: Obama forgets to mention he also inherited a Democrat Congress, and could have done “anything he pleased.” Very important reminder.”
Josh Kraushaar: “The new line about Obama being unrestrained politically in a second term a new one for Mitt. Tested very well w CNN focus group.”
John Podhoretz: “Don’t underestimate the rhythms of this speech. This is something new from him.”
Patrick Ruffini: “The Romney camp is effective when it puts lead on the target.”
Kevin Eder: “Every panelist on MSNBC trashed Mitt. Yep, he’s our guy!”
Quite a few pundits saw a particular theme in Santorum’s speech last night:
Jeff Greenfield: “NOW Rick praises the working woman…a bit late, no?”
Our Katrina Trinko: “I’m getting the vibe that Santorums trying to tell us he’s fine w/ working moms.”
Sean Trende: “Shorter Santorum: Don’t be scared of me, working women.”
Jonathan Martin: “And now cometh Santo’s play to close that gender gap…”
Mickey Kaus: “Santorum speech opening: Did he do *that* badly among women?”
Laura Ingraham: “Rick S speech undisciplined and meandering. Started by pandering re women.”
Keep in mind, the delegate vote is going to end up close. So Romney’s statewide win got him 16 or so delegates, Santorum 14.
Oh, and keep an eye on Romney’s television interviews this morning, as they have proven to get… complicated for him in the past.