Over the course of the 2012 GOP primaries, I've repeated the same phrase a few times. That is, “if Mitt Romney wins tomorrow, it’s over.” Well, he has won a few, but his campaign has been like a trick birthday candle. It lights up, goes out and lights up again. He just can't seem to close the deal.
So here we are, the day before the critical Michigan and Arizona primaries. I've been wrong about what winning would mean before, so there is no point in me guessing what losing might mean for Romney or Rick Santorum. The only thing that is certain is that there is almost no scenario where tomorrow’s outcomes will finish things. If Mitt Romney wins both primaries, he still has challenges to face in the South. If Romney loses Michigan, everything becomes harder, but he isn’t dead and Santorum won’t be invincible.
If Santorum wins Michigan, the negative attacks will be even more relentless. Sustained negative attacks often have their desired effects. There won't be many new attacks on Santorum; instead, he is vulnerable in how he handles the onslaught. Will he stumble and say things that feed the credibility of those attacks?
The Republican process is not flattering for anyone right now, but I don't necessarily subscribe to the certainty that it is all bad for the nominee. It probably isn’t good, but it is very possible that it doesn’t matter much either. The issues that will matter in the fall are shaping up to offer voters clear choices. President Obama is stuck with decisions he has made that are unpopular and discouraging to a large portion of the voters — health care, the deficit, energy and jobs, just to name a few. And, the president doesn’t appear to be moving to the right or even sounding a fresh alarm over the same problems he pledged to fix four years ago. Squabbling among Republicans in February won’t mean much to voters in November.