With Mitt Romney virtually assured of victory in today’s Arizona Republican primary, the eyes of the political world are on Michigan today as voters cast their ballots in the Republican primary. Michigan is a two person race between Romney and Rick Santorum and the final polls indicate the race is a toss-up. Depending on what happens tonight the results could have huge implications moving forward.
If Romney win easy: Should Romney outperform the polls and popular thinking with a relatively big win tonight, say a 7-10 point win, coupled with a big win in Arizona it will likely put him back on track as the frontrunner and prohibitive favorite to be the nominee. That said, this is probably the least likely scenario.
If Romney barely wins: If Romney only wins by one or two points tonight he will continue to be dogged by questions of his broad appeal in the Republican party, his ability to seal the deal with the nomination on the line and his ability to connect with voters. Romney seemingly has numerous advantages in Michigan since he grew up there, his dad was governor of the state and he continues to enjoy a financial and organizational advantage over Santorum as well. So if he barely squeaks out a win tonight it will raise legitimate questions about his candidacy, but at the same time it would still give him a win and at least some momentum looking toward Super Tuesday.
If Santorum wins: If Santorum pulls off a win in Michigan tonight it will likely signal a major upheaval in the Republican primary race. In addition to all the same questions about Romney outlined above, we can expect to hear more grumblings about a brokered convention and more candidates getting in the race or somehow coming to save the party. A Santorum win would signal the first time a non-Romney candidate has been able to grab and sustain momentum since the opening caucus in Iowa. It could also point to major flaws in Romney’s candidacy and campaign team, and perhaps even lead to some shake-ups in the Romney camp. One thing is nearly for certain, if Santorum wins tonight the race has the real potential to last longer than anticipated and drag into the summer.
No matter what happens, keep a close eye on Michigan tonight if you want to know how the Republican race will look going forward.