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WASHINGTON, February 28, 2011 – It’s now the turn of Michigan and Arizona to generate political buzz today as Primary Season 2012 continues for the fractious Republican Party. While Michigan is viewed as a make-or-break state for more-or-less favorite son, Mitt Romney, Arizona won’t take a back seat in this race either.
The horse race
While Romney is favored to win in the Grand Canyon State, immigration policy is also a hot issue here, which could influence the outcome either way. A recent airport runway kerfuffle between Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and President Barack Obama, whose administration has flatly opposed Arizona’s tough illegal immigration law, has added some extra sizzle to this critical local, state, and national issue.
Former Senator Rick Santorum has made inroads in Arizona, given his stalwart support for strong illegal immigration controls. But Romney recently scored a PR coup by gaining the endorsement of his onetime 2008 primary foe, Senator John McCain.
An added Romney plus: an additional nod from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. That’s important because Kobach, who is now a Romney advisor on immigration, actually lent a hand in crafting the disputed Arizona statute.
But back to Michigan, Romney’s once comfortable lead in his original home state had fizzled into a near dead-heat between the former Massachusetts governor and the feisty, strongly pro-life Santorum. In recent days, however, Romney once again has appeared to be expanding his lead, at least according to Scott Rasmussen, acknowledged currently as providing some of the most reliably accurate polls available.
The wild card in both states: Santorum’s strong anti-abortion position, while driving the liberal punditocracy and the feminists nuts, is greatly favored by strong conservatives and some Tea Party devotees devotees.
And lest we forget the supposedly dead Tea Party…
Romney still doesn’t exactly enchant these mostly-Republican mavericks who are still very much alive and fighting despite the media’s and the (now underground) Journolistas’ repeated attempts to write them off as a spent political force.
The Tea Partiers’ real hot-button issues continue to be the spluttering American economy and the perceived madness of Obamacare’s gigantic and effectively unfunded mandate—not to mention this administration’s latest constitutional-issue flap with the Roman Catholic Church. Santorum’s pro-Church position helps him out on quite a lot on the latter front. That’s doubly true in Michigan where there is a strong Catholic presence
Looking for alternatives to Romney, Tea Partiers seem to have been supporting Anybody-But-Mitt in every state primary contest or caucus thus far. Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and, early on, even Michelle Bachman have attracted support from Tea Partiers, evangelicals, and plain-envelope conservatives alike, all of whom fear that Mitt is yet another RINO (Republican In Name Only) in disguise.
Lest we forget, the ultimate anti-Romney, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, also scores high in the younger segment of the Republican and Tea Party demographic. He continues to inspire an almost messianic fervor among his supporters, though he’s not likely to top either Romney or Santorum in tomorrow’s final tally. His appeal to these voters: like them or not, there’s never any ambiguity when it comes to the Congressman’s political position on any issue.
The big issue
But the bottom line, ultimately, is this: Which Republican candidate is most likely to beat Barack Obama in the fall? It’s a tough question. A perceived moderate could shave off independent voters who supported The One in 2008 while encouraging conservative true-believers to sit 2012 out. A perceived strong conservative, however, could alienate the swing voters, tilting the playing field back to Obama and the Democrats.
Perceptually, the remaining field of Republican candidates seems to be generating only tepid enthusiasm among the faithful at this point. Whether this is factually true, or merely a public perception influenced by the absence of a clear Republican front-runner may also loom large in today’s final tallies.
Tonight’s cable network coverage
Cable networks plan extensive live coverage of the primaries this evening. CNN will begin coverage at 7 p.m. MSNBC will start weighing in at 8 p.m. And Fox will reportedly start covering the event at 9 p.m. EST. (Part of Michigan is in the Central Time Zone and Arizona runs on Mountain Time, so network projections have to take this into account.)
And we’ll be here, too, ready to engage in a live discussion of the event with anyone who wants to drop in.
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