Primary results showcase a crippled Republican party

Romney: A winner? Not yet (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Mitt Romney‘s narrow win in Michigan is unlikely to ease lingering doubts about his candidacy or head off the possibility of a long and divisive presidential nominating fight that is damaging Republican chances in November’s general election.

The close result in Michigan at least temporarily returned Romney to his frontrunner status and averted an outbreak of panic among Republicans worried that staunch social conservative Rick Santorum could doom the party in the November election.

But Romney’s struggle to narrowly capture the state where he was once a big favorite highlighted questions about his own inability to connect with voters, and simply shifts the fight down the road to a new round of battlegrounds in 10 “Super Tuesday” states next week.

“Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief and Romney gets a little momentum heading into next week, but it doesn’t change much,” Republican strategist Ron Bonjean said. “This is going to be a long, drawn-out marathon. It feels like a political death march.”

The state-by-state Republican race goes national now with 22 contests in March, including the state of Washington on Saturday and 10 contests next Tuesday led by a primary in the crucial general election state of Ohio.

Ohio looms as the next big battleground in the constantly shifting Republican nominating struggle. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, will face off again there.

Santorum is ahead in early polls in Ohio, where Romney will try again to find a way to appeal to conservatives who distrust him for his support in liberal Massachusetts for abortion rights and a healthcare overhaul similar to President Barack Obama’s federal plan.

Multimillionaire Romney has seen his negatives rise in polls as he has unleashed attacks on his rivals and reminded voters of his superrich status with recent comments about his wife’s two Cadillacs and his friends who own NASCAR teams.

‘WE DON’T LIKE ANY OF THEM’

His struggles to connect with social conservatives in states like South Carolina, which he lost to rival Newt Gingrich, and with blue-collar Midwestern conservatives in places like Iowa, Missouri and Minnesota, where Santorum beat him, have raised doubts among senior Republicans about his strength against Obama in November.

Obama’s poll numbers against his Republican rivals strengthened nationally and in Michigan as the primary campaign rolled on, and polls show a growing number of Republicans are dissatisfied with the field of contenders.

“The longer this goes on, Republican voters are saying ‘We don’t like any of them,’” Steve Schmidt, campaign manager for John McCain in 2008, said on MSNBC.

“The net result of all this is a very pessimistic Republican Party – Washington people went from very confident a few months ago about beating President Obama to where they are today, which is very pessimistic,” he said.

A Santorum win in Michigan would have unleashed another round of speculation among dissatisfied Republicans about new candidates jumping in the race or a brokered convention in Tampa, Florida, in August.

Unlike the 2008 Democratic nominating fight between Obama and Hillary Clinton, which lasted until June as Democrats chose between two popular contenders, the Republicans fight threatens to go the distance because none of the contenders have been strong enough to land a knockout blow.

Romney overcame what had been a big deficit in Michigan by unleashing a flood of negative attacks on Santorum, who turned the campaign debate in the last few weeks toward hot-button social issues like birth control, religion and abortion.

Romney, who also easily won the Arizona primary along with Michigan on Tuesday, has now won six of the first 11 contests in the Republican battle to pick a nominee to face Obama in the November 6 general election.

Romney’s financial and organizational advantage will help him as the contests come more quickly and in more states, and he continued to build a lead in the race for the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination.

But he will face questions about his general election viability against Obama until he can prove his appeal to conservatives and win a state in the South, the Republican general election stronghold.

Romney struggled again with conservatives in Michigan. Exit polls showed about six of every 10 voters described themselves as conservative. Santorum won with self-described strong conservatives, although Romney did better with those who said they were only somewhat conservative.

“Until he figures out how to communicate with conservatives, he’s going to have to keep fighting state by state and really having to slog it out to the nomination,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said.

(Editing by Alistair Bell and Eric Walsh)

© Thomson Reuters 2012

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4 Responses to "Primary results showcase a crippled Republican party"

  1. woody188  February 29, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    After weeks of anti-Santorum ads on TV I finally saw an anti-Romney TV ad last night during NCIS. There are no positive Republican campaign television ads, only ads attacking their opponent.

    Still not a lot of yard signs, bumper stickers or billboards in Ohio for a supposedly “battleground” state. Have only seen Ron Paul yard signs and billboards, nothing from any other candidate, and no bumper stickers whatsoever. Seems like there is no primary in grassroots Ohio.

  2. Sandy Price  February 29, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    The GOP is not crippled but simply a fulfillment of their push for a Christian America. 2012 was the year to pack the House and Senate with Conservative legislators. The GOP knew they would never put a stop to Obamacare so they went after tearing it apart using Christian doctrines to make it unsuitable.

    This might just work except for the fact that the American voters are not Christians. It was tried right here at Reader Rant when Doug was on sick leave and the forum went crazy taking on several of us who were Secular. CHB was not alone and on another forum I had my life threatened and my work with Hospice declaring me as a killer. I had one insane man from West Virginia go off with insults threatening my welfare. He was a neighbor of another poster and I had a check run on the two of them for putting my life in jeopardy. This is nothing but religious insanity. I attended a revival meeting in Lake Havasu City and I asked what would happen to those Americans who were not Evangelical and I was again threatened by these wild-eyed freaks. I was warned to drive home with my lights off and not open my door. I went to work the next morning (I was a hospice worker) and when I got home the south side of my garage had been bulldozed. I am a senior unarmed old lady and I knew that I had to get away from any area that was predominately Christian. I practically gave my house away and moved closer to Phoenix. I was not raised as a sinner and I fear those of you who were.

    One does not dare to be Secular anywhere in America at this time. It doesn’t matter than I never believed in any God. I was misled in my Civics classes that America was a free nation. It is not! It never will be as long as the Republican Party is being led by hoodlums wearing crosses.

    It came to my attention during Bush 43′s campaign and it hit full bore on 911. My house was damaged in 2001 and it has gotten progressively worse every year since then. The day after the Arizona/Michigan primary it has blown open again when Romney declares himself on the side of Evangelicals. Both Romney and Santorum have crapped all over the Republican party.

    Accepting the end of times as our future will destroy what is left of our government. The murderous hatred found in the political parties is oozing down into our children’s activities at school. American adults would rather face their churches than look at right over wrong. This is another problem that in the past brought on the revolutions and the inquisitions. We will see the Christians against Americans where no winner is possible.

    The American people are so phucking stupid they cannot see when they are being played by the churches. Don’t count on the Democrats to get you out of this mess. They are as taken in by the Evangelicals as the rest of D.C.

    There are no good guys against the bad ones. Americans are considered evil and I can hardly find a decent one these days. Once a bunch of ignorant Christian warriors get liquored up they will say God told them to kill Obama or anyone who stands in their way. People who read the history of mankind know how these things happen but make no effort to stop this crap. Where the hell are the Ministers and Priests? Are they hiding in nunnary somewhere?

    The media loves this stuff. I moved to the Palm Springs Desert where gays abound and where they are safe, so will I be. I’m watching Chris Matthews who is laughing his ass off loving what is happening in America at this time. Everybody has a laugh track.

    What will shut these bastards up? A major bomb in their city? How many Americans will be hurt or even die protecting these jokers? I’ve got 23 years of working Red Cross Disasters and I get physically sick when I see people laughing at the results of a bomb or a train goes off track. Americans cannot tell reality from a television show.

    • Jon  February 29, 2012 at 11:18 pm

      I don’t know if this is going to help much, but times change, Ms. Price.

      Few expect the Spanish Inquisition, but when those involved do resort to such things they’re getting desperate. They are at the end of their rope, and although they’ll never admit it, they’re losing.

      There’s always a pendulum swing, and it’s not equal everywhere, but the general trend is obvious.

      As Gandhi may or may not have said (The quotation, I believe, is apocryphal), “First they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.”

      Jon

    • Editor  March 1, 2012 at 2:00 am

      Ms. Price, let’s tone down the hysteria over a “Christian conspiracy.” We’re not big on conspiracy theories around here.

      Thanks.

      Sherry

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