Does Romney Need to Win Today in Michigan?

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney spent more blood and treasure than any other candidate in both Iowa and New Hampshire, but he came in second in both states. Today, in Michigan, where his father George was once a popular Governor, he needs a win. Romney has the money to continue in the race whether he wins today or not. And, he plans to do so, at least through "Tsunami Tuesday" on February 5th when 21 states hold primaries nationwide. But, while he could survive a loss to, say, Duncan Hunter or Ron Paul, it is far less certain he can survive the momentum that John McCain or Mike Huckabee would gain from a win in Michigan. Both McCain and Huckabee have a strong shot in South Carolina next week and would benefit from the momentum of a Michigan win. Back-to-back wins in Michigan and South Carolina would have a huge effect on the winner-take-all primary in Florida the following week. Then, it is on to Tsunami Tuesday. If Romney does win, it is not clear where he goes next for a win. The evangelicals in South Carolina are not likely to be more hospitable than the evangelicals in Iowa were. But, the Mormon issue has not been Romney’s principle problem. His flip-flops on issues near and dear to the Republican base like abortion and gay rights, his blow-dried hair and his blow-dried speeches, the lack of gravitas, these are what account for Romney’s failure to connect with the electorate. Oddly enough, the principal beneficiary of a Romney win might be Rudy Giuliani, whose campaign’s strategy has been to essentially ignore the early states and focus on Florida and Tsunami Tuesday. He needs to have a multiple candidate field still in the race for the next month. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut all vote on Feb. 5, and all have winner-take-all primaries, so it is quite possible that if Giuliani performs reasonably in the rest of the nation, on Feb. 6, the headline could read "Giuliani in lead for delegates." Still, Giuliani’s strategy remains highly suspect, as his plummeting national poll numbers indicate. It was a mistake not to contest New Hampshire, a state with precisely the kind of libertarian credo that should have been friendly soil for Giuliani’s message. A Huckabee or McCain win in Michigan will not only sink Romney, it will sink Rudy. By 10 p.m. tonight, the GOP race should be a whole lot clearer than it is this morning. Michael Sean Winters
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