Willard “Mitt” Romney won the Arizona primary easily and also won a close contest in Michigan by beating Rick Santorum by a count of 41 percent to 38 percent. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich made little effort in Michigan and trailed Romney and Santorum badly.
Romney had been expected to win easily in Arizona and, until the past few weeks, had also been expected to win easily in Michigan. Santorum’s recent surge had him with a slight lead in Michigan a week ago, but large media buys by the Romney campaign and Romney’s “Super Pac” apparently enabled Romney to close the gap and pull out a victory in Michigan.
Romney’s “Super Pac” outspent Santorum’s “Super Pac” by 2 to 1, and Romney’s campaign committee outspent Santorum’s campaign committee by 6 to 1. The “Super Pac” money constituted the largest expenditures, with Romney’s “Super Pac” spending $4.1 million, and Santorum’s “Super Pac” spending $2.1 million. It was important for Romney to win Michigan, as a defeat in Michigan, where Romney’s father had been governor, would have been humiliating. The Santorum campaign was attempting to spin the narrow defeat as a “win,” because they had “made Romney sweat” to win his “home state.”
Watching the two campaigns in the last few days before the balloting was like watching two football teams with extremely bad cases of “fumbleitis” play against each other.
Romney’s campaign had scheduled a visit to Daytona for Mitt to give a speech to a Nascar crowd, with the intention of combating his elitist image. Romney delivered the speech, and was then asked if he followed Nascar. Romney replied that he didn’t follow Nascar “as closely as some of its most ardent fans, but I have some great friends who are Nascar team owners.” Rather than capitalize on this fumble by Romney, Santorum produced a fumble of his own. Santorum, who is Catholic, stated that the speech that John F. Kennedy, the only Catholic president in America’s history, gave to a convention of Protestant ministers in Houston during the 1960 presidential campaign made him “want to vomit” (This speech is considered by historians to be one of the great campaign speeches in American history, delivered before a hostile audience. As hard as it is to believe today, many of the ministers in the audience had been busily stirring up anti-Catholic bigotry, and continued to do so after the speech, but Kennedy’s well-reasoned case for fairness convinced the majority of American Protestants not to reject him simply because he was a Catholic).
Not to be outdone, Romney responded with another fumble, referring to his wife’s “Cadillacs” in different states (Romney owns several homes in various parts of the country). Santorum struck back by quoting President Obama’s wish that every American child should have the opportunity to go to college and commented “what a snob” (Santorum attended college and holds three degrees). Apparently parents who wish for their child what Rick Santorum already has are “snobs.”
This comedy of errors brings to mind a comment by Casey Stengel, the legendary former manager of the great Yankee teams of the ‘50’s, when he witnessed the (lame) efforts of his new team, the expansion New York Mets of the early 1960’s. During spring training, Stengel evidently couldn’t believe his eyes. Finally, he exploded “Can’t anybody here play this game?”
Looking at the exit polling numbers provides some revealing insights into the Michigan primary. Santorum beat Romney among every demographic except those making over $100,000 per year, and, interestingly, Catholics. This leaves one to wonder: If Santorum had avoided the slur against J.F.K., would he have won Michigan in spite of being so badly outspent?
Paul Schwietering is a former Democratic state central committeeman. He lives in Union Township.