It’s Michigan or Bust for Romney

BY Christina Bellantoni and Alex Bruns  February 21, 2012 at 9:06 AM EDT

Mitt Romney; photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Mitt Romney campaigns in Michigan, which holds its primary Feb. 28. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

The next seven days might feel like an eternity for the man hoping to reclaim the spot atop the presidential pack.

Mitt Romney was matter of fact when he dismissed the prospect of losing his native state of Michigan with a “that won’t happen.” But now his aides seem to be downplaying expectations.

Eric Fehrnstrom told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on Monday that the three states with strong Romney ties are not, actually, in the “must-win category.”

“Mitt Romney has connections to three states: Massachusetts, where he raised a family and started a business; Michigan, of course, where he spent the first 18 years of his life and his dad was the governor; and Utah, where he ran the Olympics back in 2002,” Fehrnstrom said. “Four years ago we won all three of three of those states. Is any one of them a must-win for Mitt Romney? No.”

One week from Tuesday, Michigan’s voters will decide if Romney’s candidacy gets a new surge of energy. That’s a lot of time.

Consider the Real Clear Politics average of Michigan polls, which finds Rick Santorum leading by 3.2 percentage points and Romney picking up some steam over the last few days.

“Michigan will determine whether Mitt Romney’s superior money advantage and bigger organization is worth anything,” Slate’s John Dickerson writes in a piece about the frequent near-death experiences Romney’s presidential bid has faced.

Romney has used that money for mostly positive biographical television ads reminding Michigan voters about his roots.

Bloomberg’s John McCormick examines Romney’s style on the stump and finds the former Massachusetts governor is nothing like his father, George Romney, who served as governor of Michigan.

(STILL) ALL ABOUT SANTORUM

Santorum remains the strong national front-runner, but he’s still scrambling to build a lasting campaign infrastructure.

As Roll Call’s Janie Lorber reports Tuesday, Santorum has scant support in Washington, especially along K Street. That’s why lobbyist Bill Wichterman, a longtime friend, pitched himself as the liaison to the Santorum campaign during a recent meeting of conservative Hill staffers and “powerful outside players,” she writes.

More from the story:

No other candidate has made a pitch like this, according to regular meeting attendees.

Until now, Santorum’s campaign has made little effort to cultivate inside-the-Beltway support.

“It would probably have been a waste of time because [Washington] was betting on a Romney win,” said one adviser to the Santorum campaign. “Prior to last Tuesday, I think D.C. and K Street had kind of decided that Romney was going to be the candidate.”

Santorum has few endorsements from Members of Congress — the three House Republicans who have publicly backed Santorum all hail from his home state of Pennsylvania — while Romney has won the support of at least 75 Congressional Republicans….

Lobbyists are not exactly lining up behind him either. Only four lobbyists publicly support Santorum, compared with the more than 50 backing Romney, according to a Roll Call tally.

The campaign has held only a few Washington fundraisers, including one in January at Wichterman’s house.

But the Santorum adviser said Washington money may not be that important to securing the Republican nomination.

“We’re raising money hand over hand right now,” he said, referencing the two weeks since the last round of primaries. “It’s just falling from the sky. … We are doing really well without D.C. fundraisers.”

On Monday’s NewsHour, Jeffrey Brown asked Susan Page of USA Today and Terry Madonna of Franklin and Marshall College about Santorum’s credentials and how social conservatism became his calling card.

Santorum won his Senate seat in 1994 with the help of the Christian Coalition thanks to his pro-life record, Madonna said. But it did not seem so prominent.

“[U]ntil you get to the late 1990s, it doesn’t become sort of an overarching, overreaching issue, compelling issue, the way it certainly has become in the last decade. He talked about fiscal matters, government reform, tax policies. That’s what got him elected in 1990 to the House and what got him elected in 1994 in the Senate,” Madonna said.

Watch the segment.

Page also noted that Santorum’s authenticity is helping him win over the core conservatives who make up the GOP primary electorate, a topic Tribune’s Paul West tackles in a story Tuesday.

“Those who have voted for Santorum, or plan to, say much of the attraction stems from an everyman image — the down-to-earth family guy motivated by unwavering and deeply held convictions — that stands out in a Republican contest in which no significant issue differences separate the top contenders,” West writes.

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

The January Federal Election Commission filings that were due at midnight Monday reveal that super PACs raised and spent more than the campaigns but also show each of the four hopefuls in solid financial health as they face possibly months more on the campaign trail.

The pro-Romney Restore our Future super PAC raised $6.6 million and spent nearly $14 million in January, thanks in part to $500,000 checks from three separate donors: coal company executive Joseph W. Craft of Tulsa, Okla., Bruce Kovner of New York City and David Lisonbee of Sandy, Utah, write Politico’s Kenneth P. Vogel and Robin Bravender.

Casino mogul and Newt Gingrich friend Sheldon Adelson told Forbes he’s willing to give up to $100 million toward super PACs. He’s quoted in this cover story saying:

“I’m against very wealthy ­people attempting to or influencing elections. … But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it. Because I know that guys like Soros have been doing it for years, if not decades. And they stay below the radar by creating a network of corporations to funnel their money. I have my own philosophy and I’m not ashamed of it. I gave the money because there is no other legal way to do it. I don’t want to go through ten different corporations to hide my name. I’m proud of what I do and I’m not looking to escape recognition.”

On Tuesday night the NewsHour will take a detailed look at the latest filings from the super PACs in a discussion with John Dunbar of the Center for Public Integrity.

The campaign committees fighting for control of Congress are also raking in the donations. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $6 million compared to the National Republican Congressional Committee’s $4.8 million. Both committees broke records for January fundraising.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Politico’s Morning Score got the first look at a new ad for Texas Rep. Ron Paul, which will attack Santorum as a “fake” on Fox News in Michigan. Watch the ad.

  • Roll Call’s Jonathan Strong uncovers more examples of Paul getting double-reimbursement for trips back home to Texas. Strong writes that “new documents obtained by Roll Call suggest Paul was aware that he was often being reimbursed twice for individual flights.” The story details documentation for 26 flights showing double payments, including “credit card statements that detail the ticket purchases, a payment to Paul from his taxpayer-funded House account for reimbursement of a flight and Federal Election Commission records or copies of checks that verify a second payment from a separate group for the same flight.” And, Strong writes, “Beyond the 26 flights, documents show an additional 31 flights where it appears Paul was double-reimbursed but the records lack sufficient detail to prove duplicate payments.” Read the story here and his original piece here.

  • The Washington Post’s T.W. Farnam writes about a new study showing this season’s campaign ads are more negative than ever.

  • Slate’s David Weigel digs through FEC records to tally where the candidates eat on the road. Hint: Pizza seems to be a staple.

  • Roll Call’s Shira Toeplitz talks with black voters in Ohio about whether President Obama will benefit from as much enthusiasm this time around as he did in 2008.

  • Follow @pbsgwen, @maryjobrooks, @mobilemort for up-to-the-minute coverage from Arizona.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • On the 50th anniversary of his launch into space, Judy Woodruff asked John Glenn, “What’s your secret?” “Attitude and exercise,” the 90-year-old said on Monday’s NewsHour. “I think keeping busy and have a purpose in every day. And if you can do that and do some exercise every day, I think that helps you out.”

  • The NewsHour’s Elizabeth Summers produced a segment about the new Ford’s Theatre Center for Education and Leadership. Hari Sreenivasan talked with historian Richard Norton Smith about how Abraham Lincoln still shapes America culture and society and how the museum has a purposeful “unfinished” quality to suggest the slain president’s legacy is still being shaped. Don’t miss the “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” reference — watch the segment here.

  • Talking Points Memo’s Brian Beutler notes that a Politico story’s error has become a “membership drive” for union officials in Wisconsin. The movement even has a t-shirt, Beutler writes.

  • The second half of a two-part biography of former President Bill Clinton airs Tuesday on PBS.

  • The NewsHour’s Ray Suarez talked with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn about the state’s budget challenges.

  • 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.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • Mitt Romney holds a town hall meeting at 11 a.m. in Shelby Township, Mich.

  • Rick Santorum holds a pair of Phoenix events: a luncheon at 1:30 p.m. and a rally at 7:30 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich addresses the Oklahoma State Legislature in Oklahoma City at 11 a.m.

  • Ron Paul has no public events scheduled.

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.

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