The quote of the day comes from Rick Santorum:

Rick Santorum stood by his opposition to the auto industry bailouts Thursday as he made a pitch to Michigan voters at the Detroit Economic Club.

“If we had just stayed out of it completely and let the market work, I believe the market would’ve worked,” Santorum said, adding that if the industry had just been left alone, it would’ve been “alive, and I believe, better.”

Many analysists don’t really think that’s right. But be that as it may, this is a pretty interesting measure of just how committed to anti-government fundamentalism the GOP primary electorate has become — or, at least, how committed to it the candidates think the GOP primary electorate has become.

Santorum is not a full-fleded anti-government zealot. In Washington as a Senator he helped enable George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism,” which in some circles is akin to Big Government run amok.

And here is an issue where Romney’s hostility (real or feigned) to aggressive government intervention in order to save an entire industry led him to get it spectacularly, cosmically wrong. Romney is now locked in a place where he has no choice but to continue muttering anti-government bromides about how the auto industry would be doing better still if we’d never gone with the bailout. Yet Santorum seems to think there’s no room for him to capi­tal­ize on the issue among Michigan Republicans by edging towards the idea that maybe the Big Government Bailout wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

And he may be right. A recent survey from the robo-polling firm Public Policy Polling found that a large majority of Michigan Republicans, 62 percent, oppose the bailout. Less than a quarter of them support it.