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The Insiders
Posted at 10:11 AM ET, 02/16/2012

Can Santorum defy the conventional wisdom?

Mitt Romney gets another endorsement today. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder will endorse him. This is big. Yet the most important political events to watch today are the size of Rick Santorum’s crowds and the speech that he will give to the Detroit Economic Club. This Insider will carry news of that speech almost live.

Here is the conventional wisdom from inside the Republican hand-wringing class: Mitt Romney has money, organization and a growing sense in the GOP that he is our only hope against President Obama. Yet, he is an underperformer and can’t break through because of poor performances in front of live GOP audiences.

Rick Santorum has momentum and money coming in but not yet arrived (unless his super PAC has a sudden super donor), but he has to overcome a fear that he would lead us to certain defeat. The fear is that he would probably allow Republicans to take the Senate and keep the House but would lose easily to Obama.

Meanwhile, a consensus has developed that Newt Gingrich would lose so big in November that it would create a downdraft that would probably keep us from winning the Senate and could easily cost us the majority in the House. There is even talk of a convoluted bank-shot strategy in which donors help Gingrich, which dilutes Santorum’s support and thereby helps Romney.

Santorum could change some of this consensus if he keeps drawing large crowds, is mistake-free and uses forums like today’s speech at the Detroit Economic Club to show some gravitas and speak fluently about the big economic issues we face. Good crowds and good reviews through the weekend could mean a lot for Santorum as he tries to solidify his recent gains.

All this will be made more difficult because he must perform at a high level while Romney unleashes millions in negative ads, and the media report new revelations about things Santorum has said and done while in the Senate and in the private sector. The Romney attacks will be predictable, but more cutting revelations could come from the news media. Opposition researchers and investigative reporters are probably under Santorum’s bed and interviewing his grade-school classmates even as we speak.

It’ll be interesting to see what we learn in the next few days.

By  |  10:11 AM ET, 02/16/2012

 
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