Romney Sets His Sights on Santorum, Michigan

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  February 24, 2012 at 9:44 AM EST

Mitt Romney greets guests after speaking at a Tea Party event on February 23 in Milford, Michigan. Photo by Getty Images.

The Morning Line

As Mitt Romney works on getting his groove back, he’s sticking with the Washington insider attack on Rick Santorum.

Campaigning in Phoenix Thursday, Romney said he hadn’t expected to see Santorum playing defense during their debate. “[W]e saw, in this case, Sen. Santorum explain most of the night why he did or voted for things he disagreed with. And he talked about this as taking one for the team. I wonder which team he was taking it for. My team is the American people, not the insiders in Washington. And I will fight for the people of America, not special interests,” Romney said.

But with just a few days to go before Michigan and Arizona voters will signal to Romney whether they want to return him to front-runner status, Romney seems to be in it for the long haul. Even as the primary campaign plays out, Romney and President Obama are focused on each other.

The president’s campaign on Friday has a banner ad taking up most of the Detroit Free Press’ Web site, urging people to “Get the facts about the auto industry recovery.” It’s a line Mr. Obama is using against all of the GOP contenders in this new campaign ad that he put on the air in Michigan on Thursday, but it’s aimed squarely at Romney.

Vice President Joe Biden blasted Romney Thursday night at a fundraiser in New Hampshire, telling the crowd that Republicans aren’t bad, they just don’t understand the challenges of the middle class, according to a pool report. The reporter noted that Biden “spoke about how a father feels who has no home equity to tap to pay for his child’s college education,” and added, “I don’t believe Romney understands that.”

For his part, Romney will outline his tax plan to members of the Detroit Economic Club Friday afternoon in a speech at Ford Field.

“After several false starts, Mitt Romney’s team has decided to position the candidate on the 30-yard line today so camera angles might make the stadium appear more crowded,” the Free Press notes in a graphic accompanying a story about the Romney event.

Dan Balz of the Washington Post asks what will happen if Romney actually wins in Michigan? Balz writes:

How much would a pair of victories be worth? Republican strategists say that although they would restore Romney to front-runner status in the race, they could still leave the party looking at a long nomination battle. They also say that winning both states Tuesday wouldn’t be enough to resolve many of the doubts that still surround Romney.

Even if Romney were to win Michigan and Arizona, he will face a difficult landscape on Super Tuesday, March 6. A victory in Michigan would boost his prospects in Ohio, but Santorum, who is from neighboring Pennsylvania, is a serious threat there. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich is focused on Georgia, the state he represented in Congress. Tennessee and Oklahoma will be more than problematic for Romney, given their conservative electorates.

We haven’t seen a major poll out of Michigan in a few days, and it’s not yet clear how Santorum’s shaky debate performance will matter. The former Pennsylvania senator holds a razor-thin 0.4 percentage point lead in the Real Clear Politics average of Michigan polling as Romney has rebuilt some of the support there that he lost over the last few weeks.

WHAT’S OLD IS NEW AGAIN

The super PAC supporting Mitt Romney released a new television ad Thursday titled “Saved,” which will air in Michigan and Arizona, highlighting the candidate’s 1996 efforts to search for the missing daughter of a former business partner.

The thing is, the spot is not really new at all. The Romney campaign aired a nearly identical ad four years ago, except then it was titled “Searched.”

Both spots feature Robert Gay, who worked with Romney at Bain Capital, talking about how the candidate shut down the office and took employees to New York City to track down his daughter who had disappeared for three days.

In fact, Gay’s testimonial in the two ads is word-for-word the same. The only differences between the two spots involve slight changes to some of the video elements and photographs, plus the revised closing line. The 2007 ad ended with “I’m Mitt Romney and I approved this message,” while the new release is tagged with “Restore Our Future is responsible for the content of this message.”

You can click here for the 2007 Romney campaign ad and here for the 2012 Restore Our Future PAC ad, or watch both videos below:

Here is the 2007 ad:

And this is the 2012 spot:

Presidential campaigns and independent super PAC groups are prohibited by law from coordinating their efforts. The treasurer for Restore Our Future told the Huffington Post in an email that the organization purchased the rights to the footage from a film production company, “which did not entail interacting with the Romney campaign.”

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • The pro-Santorum Red White and Blue Fund super PAC on Friday will release new ads running on TV in five Ohio media markets. The buy is $257,000, a source told the Morning Line. They will run through Wednesday.

  • MLive’s Dave Murray takes note of the Michigan events being added to the schedules of Romney, Santorum and Ron Paul ahead of next week’s GOP primary.

  • Newt Gingrich announced details of when and where his 30-minute commercial focused on energy will run ahead of Super Tuesday:

Spokane, Wash. – KHQ (NBC) February 25th, 6:30 p.m. PT

Tulsa, Okla. – KOTV (CBS) February 26th, 8:30 a.m. CT

Nashville, Tenn. – WSMV (NBC) February 26th, 12:30 p.m. CT

Macon, Ga. – WMAZ (CBS) March 3rd, 7:30 p.m. ET

  • Gingrich also put out a press release that opens with this line: “As part of Newt 2012′s public service to voters unable to follow and understand Mitt Romney’s changing positions and stories on just about every issue and element of his past, Newt 2012 updated TalesOfMitt.com to include the Governor’s latest debate falsehood.”

  • Santorum has grown more popular among women while talking about his opposition to abortion, his disapproval of birth control and his view that the federal government shouldn’t pay for prenatal screenings, Amy Gardner reports, detailing a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The survey shows “not only that Santorum is doing better among GOP women than he was a few weeks ago, but also that he is less unpopular — and also less well known — among Democratic and independent women than his Republican rivals” Romney and Gingrich.

  • Politico’s Morning Score reported that MoveOn.org “is putting an undisclosed sum behind a 30-second ad to run on Michigan cable through next Tuesday that attacks Romney for opposing the auto bailout.” Click here to watch the ad.

  • The New York Times’ Sheryl Stolberg looked at Lenore Romney’s 1970 Senate bid, and what the young Romney learned from watching his mother lose.

  • Karen Santorum told Glenn Beck that it is “God’s will” that her husband has risen in the polls, writes the Washington Times’ Stephen Dinan.

  • Romney keeps up the attack on Santorum over his support for Arlen Specter in a new web video. And Specter told CNN that Santorum’s explanation for backing the then-liberal Republican isn’t accurate.

  • Sen. Marco Rubio was a baptized as a Mormon at age 8, and later converted to Catholicism, the Miami Herald reports.

  • The Los Angeles Times has a detailed look at Santorum’s record in Congress.

  • The pro-Gingrich Winning our Future super PAC has a positive spot out touting the former speaker’s record.

  • Comedian Bill Maher is donating $1 million to the pro-Obama super PAC, “Priorities USA Action,” reports CNN.

  • WMUR’s James Pindell reports the New Hampshire state attorney general found Gingrich’s campaign violated the state’s do-not-call laws, but will not seek prosecution.

  • At a fundraiser in Cincinnati, First Lady Michelle Obama touted her husband’s record and reminded supporters that “Change is slow.” She added, “[B]ut we will get there.”

  • The Faith and Freedom Coalition will host a telephone town hall Saturday afternoon with Romney and Gingrich. Chairman Ralph Reed will moderate the discussion. In a press release, the group noted that all of the candidates were invited to participate.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • Judy Woodruff talked with Nancy Keenan of NARAL Pro-Choice America and Charmain Yoest of Americans United for Life about Virginia’s abortion ultrasound measure and broader national efforts in this latest front in the culture wars. Watch the discussion.

  • Cheers no doubt rung out at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Thursday when the New York Times published a major story detailing a probe into Rep. Vern Buchanan’s campaign finance activities. “Federal inquiries surrounding Mr. Buchanan appear to be widening, as investigators examine allegations that his companies improperly reimbursed contributors to his campaigns and claimed improper tax deductions and that he failed to include all his varied financial interests in his Congressional disclosure reports,” the newspaper writes. The Florida Republican has been under scrutiny for months. The Times notes that a federal grand jury has been hearing evidence in the case.

  • The Washington Post’s Laura Vozzella and Anita Kumar looked at the unraveling of the original Virginia ultrasound measure.

  • A judge ruled that Rielle Hunter may take possession of the sex tape she recorded with former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.

  • Facing increasing opposition from within his own party, Speaker John Boehner may scrap his ambitious five-year highway and energy package in favor of a shorter and more palatable measure, John Stanton writes for Roll Call.

  • As the governors arrive in Washington for the National Governors Association Winter meeting, the Maryland state senate gave final clearance to legalizing gay marriage. Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to sign the measure.

  • Politico’s David Catanese rounds up the competitive gubernatorial races this fall.

  • Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., released her first television ad Thursday in what promises to be a contentious reelection campaign as she fights off a host of outside groups and a still to-be-determined Republican challenger. It targets “special interest” groups that have been advertising against her.

  • A pair of polls released Thursday provided contradictory information regarding the American opinion of the auto bailouts. A Pew Research poll found a majority of Americans, 56 percent, support the government bailouts for GM and Chrysler while a Gallup poll showed 51 percent disapprove of the bailouts. The disparity could be due to the wording of the two surveys.

The Pew poll asked its participants whether the “economic effects” of the bailout were good or bad, and the Gallup poll asked whether or not respondents approved of the bailouts in principle.

  • D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Council Member Jim Graham were among the judges of a charity stand-up comic contest Thursday night. NewsHour reporter-producer P.J. Tobia was among the contestants. Matt Cooper of National Journal claimed the funniest journalist prize, again, thanks in part to his impressions of presidential hopefuls. One of the biggest laugh lines went something like this: “Will Barack Obama really be lucky enough to face Alan Keyes and Rick Santorum in one lifetime?”

  • The Sunlight Foundation is offering training on how to report on super PACs.

  • 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.

NewsHour politics desk assistant Alex Bruns contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • Mitt Romney addresses the Detroit Economic Club at 12:15 p.m. and holds a town hall in Kalamazoo, Mich., at 7:10 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich visits the Washington State Capitol in Olympia at 12:45 p.m., and holds a pair of rallies — in Federal Way at 3:30 p.m. and Everett at 10 p.m.

  • Rick Santorum attends a fish fry in Walled Lake, Mich., a 6:30 p.m., holds a rally in Lincoln Park at 8 p.m. and hosts a tele-town hall with Arizona Republican voters at 10 p.m.

  • Ron Paul has no public campaign events scheduled.

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 and @suddinengel.