Santorum Erases Romney’s Home-field Advantage in Michigan

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  February 16, 2012 at 9:50 AM EDT

Rick Santorum; photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Rick Santorum is doing very well in the polls in Michigan, which holds its primary Feb 28. Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

So much for Mitt Romney’s home-field advantage in Michigan.

A Detroit News poll released Thursday found Rick Santorum leading Romney, 34 percent to 30 percent, among likely Republican primary voters in the Great Lakes State. The paper notes that the gap is within the poll’s margin of error.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich received nearly 12 percent support in the survey, followed by Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 9 percent. More than 12 percent of respondents said they were undecided.

So, why is Santorum getting a second look in what’s considered Romney’s backyard?

“He’s the un-Romney,” Bill Ballenger of Inside Michigan Politics told Gwen Ifill on the Wednesday’s NewsHour. “Mitt Romney is going to have to fight for his life to win this state in two weeks,” Ballenger said, noting he’d never seen such “unprecedented” voter mood swings.

To that point, Judy Woodruff wrote on The Rundown Wednesday that Gingrich is right — the presidential race really does have as many twists and turns as Disneyland’s Space Mountain.

Our partners at Patchwork Nation took a look at Romney’s stronghold of “Monied ‘Burbs” to see if he can keep a firewall in the upcoming contests. Dante Chinni writes:

Nine states into the Republican presidential nominating contests, a very clear pattern emerges in Patchwork Nation’s demographic and geographic breakdown of counties. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is relying heavily on wealthy suburban counties — counties Patchwork Nation calls the Monied ‘Burbs — to win states.

The Republican presidential nominating calendar has moved through 43 Monied ‘Burb counties so far, and Romney has won 21 of them. That’s even though former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has won far more counties overall thanks to his Feb. 7 gains.

CONTRACEPTION CONVERSATION

Even Republicans who view Santorum as an authentic conservative admit that Romney may have the easier path to challenge President Obama this fall, thanks in part to some of the former Pennsylvania senator’s views on social issues.

Consider some of the stories turning up as Santorum joins Romney at the top of the pack.

The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, who writes the conservative “Right Turn” blog, found a 2006 interview with Santorum in which he called birth control “harmful to women.”

“I don’t think it works. I think it’s harmful to women. I think it’s harmful to our society to have a society that says that sex outside of marriage is something that should be encouraged or tolerated,” Santorum said in the interview. “Birth control, to me, enables that, and I don’t think it’s a healthy thing for our country.”

Santorum noted in the interview that he was expressing a personal view and that as a member of Congress he had “voted for contraception.”

But in an interview he did with the Evangelical blog Caffeinated Thoughts last October, discovered by Time Magazine’s Michael Scherer, Santorum seemed to suggest that he would make contraception a policy focus if elected.

“One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is, I think, the dangers of contraception in this country,” Santorum said.

“Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’ It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,” Santorum added. “They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal … but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act.”

Santorum’s views on contraception appear to be at odds with a large segment of the public. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that 42 percent of Americans said contraceptive use is morally acceptable, while just 8 percent responded that it was morally wrong. Forty-three percent said use of contraceptives was not a moral issue.

A third of voters indicated they have not heard enough about Santorum yet to form an opinion of him, according to the latest New York Times / CBS News poll, and another 15 percent of respondents said they were undecided.

The Washington Post’s Dan Balz highlighted that fact on Wednesday’s program. “I think what’s important at this point to remember is that most Republican voters don’t know him very well, and they’re going to get to know him a lot better over the next couple of weeks,” Balz said.

MAINE MADNESS

NewsHour politics desk assistant Alex Bruns notes that Romney may soon have another caucus win taken from him. Maine GOP officials are not officially considering a revision of last weekend’s caucus results, which were never fully reported by the state’s Republican committee, but state Republican chairman Charlie Webster will release a revised vote count after a meeting of the state’s party committee on March 10.

Last Saturday, Webster announced a victory for Romney over Paul by a 194-vote margin. But after the announcement, several counties quickly cried foul. Waldo County Republicans discovered that a clerical error led to their votes not being included in the state party results, even though most communities there caucused early. Washington County, the easternmost county in the state, did not vote at all, as the county had its caucuses delayed until Feb. 18 because of a snowstorm.

As the Morning Line reported Monday, Paul’s campaign manager John Tate complained about the delay in an email to supporters and noted his boss was “incredibly strong” in Washington County.

Amid the mess, Webster seems determined to avoid the same fate as his party chair comrades in Iowa and Nevada, who both resigned after scandal plagued their respective caucuses earlier this season. In an interview with the Bangor Daily News, Webster said of the calls for his resignation: “If people were saying he can’t raise money, he can’t raise candidates or he doesn’t speak for the party, then I’d consider it. That’s not the case here.”

In the end, the fate of Webster and the Maine caucuses may rest in the hands of the famously active Paul supporters, who are likely to mount an all out assault in Washington County this coming weekend. Paul’s campaign is optimistically anticipating a Maine reversal, but even a landslide victory for the Texas congressman in the rural northern county may not be enough. In 2008, Washington County had fewer than 120 voters turn out for the Republican caucuses.

PROGRAMMING NOTE

Judy is interviewing House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Thursday on Capitol Hill. What would you ask the California Democrat? Tweet your questions to @judywoodruff.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder endorses Romney in a Detroit News op-ed.

  • The Associated Press’ Beth Fouhy details Gingrich’s “history of near-death experiences” in this volatile campaign cycle. The third time might not be the charm, she writes.

  • “Pay no attention to those projected delegate counts you’ve seen,” Seth McLaughlin writes in The Washington Times. Any figures “don’t account for the pool of 180 delegates that have yet to be doled out by Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Colorado and Maine, all of which have voted — opening the door for a reshuffling of the leader board in the coming months.”

  • Politico’s Kenneth Vogel writes that both Santorum and Gingrich are doing fundraisers to benefit their respective super PACs.

  • A new American Research Group poll finds Santorum going from 10 percent in Arizona less than a month ago to 31 percent. He still trails Romney, but just barely.

  • USA Today tabulates individual donations to the presidential candidates.

  • Friend of the NewsHour Stuart Rothenberg (@stupolitics) writes that two states are critical to the Democrats’ chances of retaining the Senate this fall: Nevada and Massachusetts. Perhaps that’s one reason Team Obama is getting Democrats involved early. The campaign solicited Bay State supporters to start “gearing up” for Super Tuesday by making calls and registering voters. An email from the campaign’s state director targets Romney, saying “We’ve seen firsthand that Mitt Romney will say — and do — anything to get elected,” but it’s also a clear drive to make sure the party is behind likely Senate nominee Elizabeth Warren. Should she defeat Sen. Scott Brown in November, Harry Reid is likely to remain in charge of the Senate.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • The Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid and Siobhan Hughes report on the deal struck by lawmakers to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance benefits.

  • The Washington Post’s Stephanie McCrummen looks at Sarah Palin’s political trajectory.

  • Roll Call’s Shira Toeplitz spent the weekend in Ohio with Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who faces a primary contest against fellow Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Don’t miss the quote from porn magnate Larry Flynt.

  • World Bank President Robert Zoellick announced Wednesday that he would be leaving at the end of his five-year term. With the rise of several new world economic powers, pressure will be mounting to break the unspoken agreement stipulating an American heads the World Bank while a European heads the International Monetary Fund. Pressure notwithstanding, a pair of veteran officials from the Obama administration, former economic advisor Larry Summers and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will reportedly be in serious consideration for the post.

  • House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, delayed a vote on the pending $260 billion transportation bill, the Hill newspaper reports. The bill was vulnerable to dissenting Republicans and House Democrats. A debate on the bill is expected after Congress returns from its Presidents Day break.

  • Lisa Chan, who starred in Michigan GOP Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra’s ad targeting Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, apologized Wednesday in a Facebook message. Hoekstra’s ad sparked charges of racism. Chan wrote: “I am deeply sorry for any pain that the character I portrayed brought to my communities. As a recent college grad who has spent time working to improve communities and empower those without a voice, this role is not in any way representative of who I am. It was absolutely a mistake on my part and one that, over time, I hope can be forgiven. I feel horrible about my participation and I am determined to resolve my actions.”

  • Half of your Morning Line dynamic duo is moderating a panel at South by Southwest in Austin next month. Here are the details, tell all your friends.

NewsHour politics desk assistant Alex Bruns contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • Mitt Romney holds a roundtable in Monroe, Mich., at 8:30 a.m., attends the Greater Farmington-Livonia Chamber of Commerce Lunch in Farmington Hills, Mich., at 11:55 a.m. and addresses the Cuyahoga County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, at 6:20 p.m.

  • Rick Santorum addresses the Detroit Economic Club at 12:30 p.m. and speaks at the Oakland County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner in Novi, Mich., at 7 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich campaigns in California, with stops in Los Angeles at 1 p.m. and Beverly Hills at 3:15 p.m.

  • Ron Paul attends a town hall in Twin Falls, Idaho, at 2 p.m. and holds a pair of Washington State rallies: in Vancouver at 7 p.m. and Seattle at 10:30 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers.