A barrage of television ads and closer scrutiny of a surging Rick Santorum have closed the gap in Michigan as a new poll shows Mitt Romney closing what once was a 15-point deficit to four percentage points.
Still, with a week to go before a crucial primary that could make or break Romney’s once seemingly inevitable march to the GOP nomination the former Massachusetts governor has a long way to go to salvage his campaign momentum.
The latest Public Policy Poll show Romney closing in on Santorum but the poll count is light on evangelicals who show strong support for the former Pennsylvania Senator. The poll also shows Romney is not eating away at Santorum’s support but drawing more voters from the undecided ranks and the fading campaign of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
“If Gingrich dropped out, Santorum would benefit and Romney would be sunk,” a veteral GOP consultant tells Capitol Hill Blue. “At this point, Romney needs Newt.”
Romney also needs to balance his anti-bailout stance with Michigan’s strong auto industry base. While his rationale that opposing the bailout is consistent with fiscal conservatism plays well with the GOP base, it could mean trouble in November if he is the nominee.
Meanwhile, Santorum faces increased scrutiny and a recently-surfaced tape of 2008 comments about Satan declaring war on the United States is raising new questions about his religious extremism.
During a 2008 speech at Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida, Santorum said:
If you were Satan who would you attack in this day and age? There is no one else to go after other than the United States. And that’s been the case now for 200 years. The place where he was in my mind most successful, first successful, was in academia. He understood the pride of smart people.
Santorum will probably face questions about the comments in a debate Wednesday in Arizona.
- Santorum in ’08: “Satan is attacking” America (cbsnews.com)
- Poll: Santorum, Romney in dead heat in Michigan GOP primary (thehill.com)
- Romney Campaign Calls Santorum Just Another Gingrich (huffingtonpost.com)
- Rick Santorum Leads in Michigan, but Mitt Romney Closing Gap: Poll (ibtimes.com)