Romney Hits Reset Button as Field Looks to Super Tuesday

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  February 29, 2012 at 9:17 AM EDT

Mitt Romney; photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Mitt Romney, with his wife Ann and son Tagg, celebrates Tuesday in Novi, Mich. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

It’s a good bet Mitt Romney slept a whole lot easier Tuesday night.

“We didn’t win by a lot but we won by enough,” Romney told supporters at his election night rally in Novi, Mich.

And that just about sums it up.

A loss would have hobbled the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, no matter how slim the margin or ugly the tactics, and no matter if it was due in part to meddling from Democrats. Romney’s narrow 41-percent-to-38-percent win over Rick Santorum in his native state of Michigan, on top of a decisive victory in the Arizona primary, restores him to a position of strength heading into Super Tuesday, when 419 delegates will be at stake through 10 contests across the nation.

By winning both contests, the former Massachusetts governor hit the reset button yet again on a turbulent nominating campaign that has been marked by sharp momentum swings, with the most recent one coming in Santorum’s favor after three early February victories.

In his victory remarks Tuesday, Romney already set his sights on his potential general election opponent, President Obama, turning one of his own campaign themes against him. “He thinks he deserves a second term,” Romney said, adding, “He says, ‘We can’t wait,’ to which I say, yes we can.”

Watch Romney’s speech below or here:

Santorum looked to put a positive spin on his narrow loss. “A month ago they didn’t know who we are, but they do now,” the former Pennsylvania senator told supporters in Grand Rapids, Mich. Also borrowing a line from Mr. Obama, Santorum said Michigan voters looked into the “hearts” of the candidates and his message in return is: “I love you back.”

So, what impact did Democratic votes have on the GOP contest? One in 10 voters in the Republican primary were Democrats, and 53 percent of them seem to have cast a ballot for Santorum.

Consider this stat found in network television exit polls: Santorum won with voters who “strongly support” the Tea Party movement and those who “strongly oppose” it.

Also worth noting, Santorum won with people who had attended some college or had never attended college, and Romney won those with college degrees and post-graduate study.

Track the live results in our Vote 2012 Map Center and watch all of the candidate speeches here.

DIVIDING UP DELEGATES

It’s still not over.

The four-man race will remain just that, at least through next week as each candidate is focused on math.

“We’re still winning a lot of delegates and that’s what counts,” Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, said Tuesday night at a rally in Springfield, Va.

“We have to gain delegates in a number of states, and I think we will,” Newt Gingrich told CNN. “We, frankly, made a decision that we’d put our resources into next Tuesday and beyond and recognize that we weren’t in a position to compete head-to-head in Michigan.”

The Detroit Free Press updates the impact of the Michigan primary on the delegate race:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the popular vote by a 41-38% margin as well as the tally in seven of 14 congressional districts, most of them in southern Michigan.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum won six congressional districts, including the 1st district, which includes the Upper Peninsula an a portion of northern Lower Michigan by just two votes. All of Santorum’s wins came in the northern and western portions of the state.

The only district that hadn’t been determined as of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday was the 13th district, which encompasses Detroit and portions of western Wayne County.

Michigan allocated two delegates to the winner in each of the state’s 14 congressional districts, with two additional delegates being awarded based on the statewide proportional vote. How those two delegates will be split has yet to be determined, according to the Free Press.

The current tally looks like this, courtesy of the Washington Post’s delegate tracker:

Romney: 163 delegates
Santorum: 83
Gingrich: 32
Paul: 19

While “a win is a win,” New York Times columnist David Brooks cautioned that Romney’s showing Tuesday “doesn’t mean all sunshine and roses for him.” Watch Brooks and syndicated columnist Mark Shields outline the path ahead for the restored front-runner:

Catch Wednesday night’s NewsHour for a full outline of the upcoming contests and the delegates at stake.

NEXT UP: SUPER TUESDAY

Ten states will vote next Tuesday, and the general election battleground of Ohio will be the top prize.

A University of Cincinnati poll released Tuesday put Santorum ahead of Romney by 11 points, 37 percent to 26 percent. A Quinnipiac University survey out Monday had Santorum up by seven points, 36 percent to 29 percent.

Fifty-three percent of respondents said they would definitely vote for their preferred candidate, with Santorum having the most solid support. Forty-seven percent said they might change their minds before next Tuesday.

Romney will seek to capitalize on his Tuesday wins by immediately shifting his focus to the Buckeye State, making his first campaign stop Wednesday morning in Toledo, then following up with an event in the Columbus area in the afternoon.

Santorum will campaign Wednesday in Tennessee, but has events scheduled in Ohio beginning Friday.

Politico’s Alexander Burns notes that the Ohio contest has already started, with the campaigns and the super PACs having spent more than $4 million — and there is more to come before next Tuesday’s primary.

As Shields pointed out on Tuesday’s NewsHour, Santorum’s infrastructure is showing in Ohio. He’s not on the ballot in several districts there.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Romney told reporters Tuesday he “makes some mistakes,” including on issues that relate to his personal wealth. Kasie Hunt writes for the Associated Press: “When a reporter asked Tuesday whether comments that have drawn attention to his wealth have hurt his campaign, Romney gave a one-word answer: ‘Yes.’ Then he said: ‘Next question.’”

  • Santorum won the Google search wars before Tuesday’s elections.

  • Paul is running a TV ad in Vermont touting his budget plan and biography, Politico’s James Hohmann reports. Watch the spot.

  • President Obama will have lunch with House and Senate leaders from both parties Wednesday.

  • Romney “called the law regulating the relationships between campaigns and Super PACs ‘a very strange, awkward and inappropriate piece of legislation’ and said campaign finance laws need to be rethought,” Andrew Joseph writes for National Journal.

  • A Houston-based super PAC is targeting a dozen Democratic and Republican incumbents to reshape the political landscape in five states, including Texas, where critics say an election law loophole is being used by a wealthy family to buy a seat in Congress, the Houston Chronicle’s Gary Martin reports.

  • It wasn’t just Santorum’s campaign urging Democrats to show up and ask for Republican primary ballots.

  • “I am so mad at the press [that] I could just strangle them! And, you know, I think I’ve decided there are going to be some people invited on the bus and some people just aren’t going to be invited on the bus,” Ann Romney told the National Review.

  • The Tea Party Nation emailed members Tuesday to complain about Romney’s “golden foot-in-mouth” syndrome. In a post to members, the organization wrote that if Romney wins the nomination, it would be a “nightmare scenario” and that he would make gaffes until the general election like a “slow-motion train wreck.”

  • Posted under the headline, “The funniest Rick Santorum photo you’ll see today.”

  • Are you following @burlij? He’ll be our man on the ground in Ohio from Wednesday through Sunday.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, shocked her colleagues in both parties Tuesday by announcing she will not seek re-election for fourth term. In a Facebook statement, Snowe decried the tone that has degraded Congress. “I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term,” she wrote. “It is time for change in the way we govern.”

President Obama issued a lengthy statement detailing Snowe’s history-making service in both the Maine legislature and Congress. “From her unwavering support for our troops, to her efforts to reform Wall Street, to fighting for Maine’s small businesses, Senator Snowe’s career demonstrates how much can be accomplished when leaders from both parties come together to do the right thing for the American people,” he said.

  • “With internally divisive fights over religion and the budget looming, Speaker John Boehner’s leadership is showing increasing signs of wear and tear, according to GOP lawmakers who warn that his often laissez-faire approach has encouraged dissension and open defiance among the rank and file,” John Stanton writes on the front page of Roll Call. He reports that Rep. Boehner “is facing growing resistance from moderates over his plan to bring legislation to the floor as part of the fight over the Obama administration’s contraception insurance rule” and has “an even more difficult challenge of dealing with conservatives who are demanding a new round of cuts as part of this year’s budget resolution that would work at cross purposes with last summer’s debt deal, which already set spending levels.” GOP members fear “things are about to get a whole lot messier, potentially unnecessarily so,” Stanton writes. Read the full story here.

  • Michael Hastings writes in Rolling Stone that the Department of Homeland Security kept tabs on the Occupy Wall Street movement.

  • Missouri Rep. Russ Carnahan will challenge Lacy Clay in yet another member-vs.-member Democratic primary. Roll Call’s Daniel Newhauser and Joshua Miller write about leadership’s attempts to keep the storied political families from facing off. See Roll Call’s handy list of redistricting-fueled, inter-congressional battles here.

  • A revised ultrasound measure passed in Virginia.

  • 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.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have lunch at the White House with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders at 12 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney campaigns in Ohio, holding a Toledo rally at 10 a.m. and a Bexley town hall outside Columbus at 2:45 p.m.

  • Rick Santorum holds a pair of Tennessee rallies: in Powell, near Knoxille, at 12 p.m. and Nashville at 9 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich holds a pair of Georgia rallies: in Covington at 3 p.m. and Gainesville at 7 p.m.

  • Ron Paul has no public campaign 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 and @suddinengel.