Walking around Jerusalem (yes, that Jerusalem) on the morning of Hillary Clinton’s triumphant victory in the 2008 New Hampshire Democratic primary, all the talk was about whether or not Michigan would even be a part of the process. Would their delegates ultimately be seated at the convention? Should the candidates play there? Was Hillary wasting her time? (Believe it or not, locals in the Old City were *obsessed* with the Democratic Presidential Primary).
With Michigan casting ballots in their Republican presidential primary today, I’m sure those same folks in Jerusalem are asking themselves Is Michigan the Most. Important. Primary. Ever.?
Listening to the news these days, you’d think yes, yes it is. But on paper, Michigan isn’t even the most important primary today, let alone ever. That honor goes to Arizona, which is allocating all its delegates winner-take-all.
But it’s not Arizona that has been called a “make or break” moment for Mitt Romney by more than a few media outlets. In many ways that makes sense. Romney was born there, grew up there and calls it home on the campaign trail.
But how many states have been “make or break” so far this cycle only to find themselves added to one candidates’ column as we move on to the next round of voting? (This morning, Chuck Todd made the case that New Hampshire & Florida were other “do or die” moments for Romney and he prevailed in both.)
The reality is Michigan is certainly important, but it will not end the race for Romney as Newt Gingrich attempted to suggest last week. Remember him? The former speaker briefly waded into the Michigan pond ever so briefly to make that charge arguing that candidates must win their home state or drop out.
Michigan will matter – a lot – if Romney loses to Santorum. Or if Santorum comes within 5 points, I think. Which seems to be the likely outcome. In both those cases, Romney will be forced to endure a brutal 48 hours of increased hollers that another candidate get in the race.
On the other hand, if Romney wins, there’s a chance Michigan will be dismissed as a “well, of course Romney was going to win there, he’s from there.” That’s what Santorum is hoping for.
He’s working hard to set expectations, reminding folks that, in theory, he shouldn’t even be competing in the state considering Romney’s background there. Not to be outdone, Romney is reminding folks, as he did on Fox News Sunday, that he was 15 points behind in Michigan at one point (another poll taken just days earlier had Romney up by 15).
The one big wild card in all this is what will Democrats do? Maybe I should have done another post on that, but since I didn’t, read this.
Either way, as mentioned above, Arizona is really the bigger prize on Tuesday, and Romney is poised for a sizeable victory there. It has less delegates – 29 compared to Michigan’s 30 – to allocate, but the Grand Canyon State will give all its delegates to the winner. Michigan will divvy up theirs proportionally which means one candidate could win the popular vote but get more delegates by winning a larger number of Congressional districts. (Both sides are already spinning their version of this outcome.)
IF – and that’s a big IF – it happens that one candidate wins the popular vote and another gets the majority of delegates, watch for a battle royale as they fight over who really “won” the state. Of course, in a competition for delegates to become the nominee, the real winner would be the candidate who comes out with the most delegates.
No matter what happens tonight rest assured the primary fight will soldier on to Super Tuesday and beyond.
A few weeks ago we asked if A Kerrey Comeback Bid? might transpire in Nebraska. Not long after we got the answer: no. Well, now it looks as though he’s had a change of heart. See, in this topsy-turvy political world we live in, even the final answer isn’t the final answer.