THE MORNING LINE -- February 28, 2012 at 8:32 AM EDT
Arizona, Michigan Head to the Polls
Ted Atkins casts his primary day ballot in Southfield, Mich. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.
Republican voters in Michigan and Arizona will have their say Tuesday, with a grand total of 59 delegates at stake, not to mention needed momentum heading into next week's Super Tuesday, when 10 contests -- and 419 delegates -- will be up for grabs.
While most of the focus has been on Michigan, where Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are neck-and-neck in the polls, Arizona's 29 delegates will go to a single candidate, as the state's primary is a winner-take-all affair.
The latest polling seems to suggest a Romney victory, and the Grand Canyon State hasn't seen much candidate activity since hosting last week's GOP debate.
Thirty delegates are on the line in the Great Lakes State, meanwhile, with two going to the winner of each of the state's 14 congressional districts. Another two delegates will be awarded based on the proportional statewide vote.
The current tally looks like this, courtesy of the Washington Post's handy delegate tracker:
Romney: 123 delegates
Newt Gingrich: 32
Ron Paul: 19
The Gallup daily tracking poll shows Romney leading Santorum nationally, 32 percent to 28 percent, after the former Pennsylvania senator had been up 10 percentage points just a week ago.
The left-leaning Public Policy Polling found that "momentum seems to be swinging in Santorum's direction" in Michigan, but cautioned that one-night polls don't tell the full picture: "Romney led with those interviewed on Sunday, but Santorum has a 39-34 advantage with folks polled on Monday. The best sign that things have gone back toward Santorum might be that with those polled today who hadn't already voted, Santorum's advantage was 41-31."
Most voting sites in Michigan close at 8 p.m. ET except for four counties in the Upper Peninsula, which close at 9 p.m. ET.
The polls in Arizona close at 9 p.m. ET, but the secretary of state's office says results will be made available beginning at 10 p.m. ET.
In Michigan, Santorum and Romney are the last two names on the ballot. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann is on the top, followed by Herman Cain. In Arizona, Santorum's name can be found toward the bottom of the ballot, just above Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer.
DIALING FOR DEMS
If Romney is able to turn things around in both states Tuesday night, it would be a remarkable feat. Santorum's quick rise following mid-February wins has been followed by intense scrutiny by the press that was punctuated by a rough weekend.
It may not have helped matters that Santorum's campaign targeted Michigan Democrats with a robocall urging them to back him in the primary.
The call's text:
On Tuesday join Democrats who are going to send a loud message to Massachusetts' Mitt Romney by voting for Rick Santorum for President. This call is supported by hard working Democratic men and women and paid for by Rick Santorum for President.
Romney spokesman Ryan Williams called it "outrageous."
"Rick Santorum has moved beyond just 'taking one for the team,' he is now willing to wear the other team's jersey if he thinks it will get him more votes," Williams said in a statement. "We believe that Republicans will decide who wins Michigan - and we are confident that will be Mitt Romney."
Sean Hannity asked Santorum about the calls on Monday night, noting that Romney had called them a "low moment" in the campaign. Santorum made no apologies.
From a transcript sent by Team Romney:
Oh, you mean when he runs a robo call of my voice from four years ago saying good things about him, that's not a low moment? And when I run a call basically saying -- calling Democrats that are eligible to vote here to vote for us, that's a low point -- encouraging people to come and vote for us, because we talk about our manufacturing plan and what we are going to do to create jobs, it's a very positive robo call, talking about what we are doing to create jobs here in Michigan. Of course, you know, it's interesting that we criticize me for attracting Democrats because one of the things that Governor Romney's people say is oh, he can't attract Democrats. Well, guess what? We will wait and see. I think we can. And that's one of the things that's got them nervous. We've got a lot of folks in this state that are looking at our plan and looking at the ideas we have to get the manufacturing sector of this economy growing again here in Michigan that are very excited about maybe having Rick Santorum on that ticket.
Romney is using the dust up to raise money, saying the Democrats are up to dirty tricks. Consider this fundraising solicitation from his campaign website, which supporters are directed to when they click on the message sent under the subject line "pathetic":
Out of desperation, Rick Santorum is inviting Democrats into the Republican primary to vote against Mitt Romney.
Rick Santorum has moved beyond just 'taking one for the team,' he is now willing to wear the other team's jersey if he thinks it will get him more votes.
Donate today to help Mitt fight back against these desperate attacks.
Still, even if the former Massachusetts governor wins, his path isn't easy going forward, and Democrats will make sure to remind him of that rocky road. As the Democratic National Committee's Brad Woodhouse wrote in a Tuesday morning memo, "[H]aving been born and raised in Michigan, where his own father served as a popular three-term governor and where Romney beat John McCain by nearly 10 percent in the 2008 GOP primary just four years ago, Romney should have had Michigan locked up from the very beginning." Expect to hear that talking point echoed before -- and after -- results come in.
"It's clear that regardless of what happens on Tuesday night, voters will see that for Mitt Romney - who has vastly outspent his Republican opponents and who keeps running farther to the right and alienating independent, moderate and working-class voters along the way -- a win in Michigan and Arizona will come at a significant cost," Woodhouse wrote.
After Gwen's piece, Stu Rothenberg and Susan Page offered their analysis, with Rothenberg offering this about President Obama's improved standing for re-election: "It's one of those cases where absence makes the heart grow fonder."
Also Monday, the NewsHour marked the return of our Political Checklist, with Christina Bellantoni, Gwen and Judy Woodruff.
2012 LINE ITEMS
Politico's Jonathan Martin looks at Romney's organizational strength and explains how it may be enough to win Michigan and the nomination, despite the former governor's ongoing struggles to close the deal with conservatives.
Michael Barbaro and Ashley Parker write in the New York Times on how Romney won over Kid Rock.
The Rick Santorum for President car driven by Tony Raines finished in 19th place out of 43 cars at Monday night's Daytona 500.
The Washington Post on Tuesday editorialized about Santorum's "throw up" remark as it relates to the separation of church and state, questioning his rhetoric on John F. Kennedy.
Raising Red Action Fund made a web video looking at President Obama as the "Con Artist." Watch the video here.
NPR's Don Gonyea does a story on the test posed to Romney's family legacy by Tuesday's Michigan primary.
Politico's Dylan Byers reports that the Wall Street Journal omitted part of Santorum's Monday op-ed where he touted his plan to eliminate taxes on manufacturing activity.
Are you following @burlij? He'll be our man on the ground in Ohio from Wednesday through Sunday.
Congratulations Tony Raines #26 car & @FrontRowNASCAR for a great race. Still don't know how he got through those last 2 pileups unscathed.— Rick Santorum (@RickSantorum) February 28, 2012
Georgetown study found 63% of American jobs will require post sec education by 2018. Snobby workforce? Go figure.— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) February 28, 2012
OUTSIDE THE LINES
Mr. Obama urged the nation's governors to invest more state resources in education, saying a highly skilled workforce is crucial for the United States to remain competitive with other countries, the Associated Press reported.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will not challenge any of the signatures on the recall petition against him, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Jason Stein. "That leaves only a review by state elections officials standing between the Republican governor and only the third recall election for a governor is U.S. history," Stein writes.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin released a TV ad Monday drawing parallels between the current investigation into current and former aides to Walker and President Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal.
Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey has changed his mind and plans to run for the open U.S. Senate seat in the Cornhusker State, Robynn Tysver writes in the Omaha World Herald under the lede, "Leave it to Bob Kerrey to turn Nebraska's political world upside down again." The story includes a link to Kerrey's previous "drawn-out, surprise decisions."
Stu Rothenberg wrote about Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill's challenges ahead of her Missouri re-election bid and the GOP primary to challenge her.
Roll Call's Emma Dumain reports that suspicious letters targeting senators' state offices have begun to arrive on Capitol Hill.
Trans-Canada announced Monday that it would proceed with construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Oklahoma to the Texas coast and plans to re-apply for a permit to build the cross-border portion of the project.
Half of your Morning Line duo is moderating a panel at South by Southwest in Austin next month. Here are the details, tell all your friends. http://schedule.sxsw.com/2012/events/event_IAP12234
NewsHour politics desk assistant Alex Bruns contributed to this report.
ON THE TRAIL
All events are listed in Eastern Time.
President Obama gives a speech at the United Auto Workers conference in Washington, D.C., at 11:30 a.m.
Mitt Romney visits his Michigan campaign headquarters in Livonia at 9:15 a.m. and holds a primary night event in Novi at 8 p.m.
Rick Santorum holds a rally in Perrysburg, Ohio, at 11:30 a.m. and hosts a primary night party in Grand Rapids, Mich., at 8 p.m.
Newt Gingrich holds three Georgia rallies: in Dalton at 11 a.m., Rome at 3 p.m. and Carrollton at 7 p.m.
Ron Paul speaks at an event in Springfield, Va., at 6:30 p.m.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.