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Post Partisan
Posted at 12:06 AM ET, 02/29/2012

Michigan primary was an opportunity blown for Rick Santorum


Rick Santorum’s speech after the Michigan primary Tuesday night was the longest apology to working women and college graduates in the history of political campaigns — partly because no candidate has had to apologize to working women and college graduates before. Santorum went on and on about his professional mom and his professional wife and spoke with respect for their work outside as well as inside the home. It’s always said that first you have to recognize your problem, so Santorum took a big step tonight.

But was it too late? Mitt Romney survived. His margin in Michigan was thin and exit polls showed he continued to have problems with the staunchest conservatives and evangelical Christians. But he won the race he had to win. Had he lost tonight, his campaign would have imploded.

And that shows what a lost opportunity Michigan was for Santorum. He had a real chance of winning Michigan and throwing Romney’s campaign into chaos. He went ahead in the polls after his trifecta of victories in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado. But he couldn’t close the deal. And women were the key to his defeat. The two candidates ran close to even among men; most of Romney’s margin came from women. A victory tonight would have established Santorum as the unquestioned leader of the Republican right. Now, he will have to continue to fight to fend off Newt Gingrich for that honor.

Romney, in the meantime, continues to face a class problem. Once again, his strongest group in the electorate consisted of those who make over $200,000 a year. In Michigan, they backed Romney over Santorum by 55 percent to 28 percent. But he ran behind Santorum among voters earning less than $100,000 a year.

This poses problems for Romney down the road. He’s a weak frontrunner. But he’s still the frontrunner. His victories in Michigan and Arizona Tuesday allowed him to keep that title. Dodging bullets has become a Romney specialty.

By  |  12:06 AM ET, 02/29/2012

 
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