Two states are up for grabs tonight…
Delegates at Stake: 29
Allocation: Winner takes all
Multiple polls show Romney leading by double digits. He has the support of two of the state’s key lawmakers, Governor Jan Brewer and his 2008 nemesis Senator John McCain. The state’s significant Mormon demographic is expected to vote heavily for Romney. The race is pretty much a foregone conclusion. One key element in Romney’s favor here: despite the Republican National Committee’s call for states voting before April to allocate their delegates proportionately, all of the Arizona Republican Party’s delegates will go to the winner. This will allow Romney to continue building on his delegate lead and be a much-needed shot in the arm, especially if he loses Michigan.
Prediction: Romney by 15-20.
Delegates at Stake: 30
Allocation: Proportional by congressional district
Polls in Michigan show the race a statistical dead heat, with the spread between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney within the margin of error. About a week ago, Santorum had momentum, but stumbled after his performance in the CNN Arizona debate. However, unforced errors by Romney (Ann Romney’s cadillacs, his NASCAR team owner friends) also threaten to undermine any gains he may have made with his debate performance and his attacks against Santorum. Romney’s biggest political liability in the state may be his constantly shifting positions and explanations about the federal government’s bailout of the big auto companies. This race should have been a slam dunk for Romney, given his Michigan roots and the fact his father was a three-term governor of the state and president and chairman of American Motors Corporation. In 2008, Romney won the Michigan primary by 9 points, a clear and decisive victory over John McCain, who won the state in 2000.
Also worth considering is Michigan’s system of allocating delegates. 28 out of 30 delegates are allocated on the basis of who wins each of the state’s 14 congressional districts. The remaining two are divided by the proportion of the statewide popular vote. It is conceivable that one candidate could win the popular vote but lose the delegate count – the Bush v. Gore scenario. The Daily Beast points out one demographic strong and unique to Michigan: Muslim Americans in the Dearborn area. Will be interesting to see what – if any – impact they have in the Republican primary or if they are surveyed in exit polls.
There is one wildcard which could decide the outcome of the primary: Democrats. Michigan has an open primary, and a long history of crossover voting. Democratic operatives and activists are encouraging Michigan Democrats to vote for Santorum in the Republican primary to embarrass Romney and prolong the race for the Republican nomination. One Democratic operative who paid for a robocall and sent out emails on his own account claims he has 14,000 commitments from state Democrats to vote for Santorum. Even the Santorum campaign is getting in on the act, a move Mitt Romney has called “dirty tricks” despite his own history of crossover voting and his backers in the state calling for the Michigan primary to remain open. Given the razor-thin margins in Iowa and Maine, it is possible that some Democrats out to wreak havoc against Romney in the primary could tip the state in Santorum’s favor.
Prediction: Santorum by 1-5 points.