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Polls show Michigan dead heat between Romney and Santorum

 

Arizona looks to be a lock for Mitt Romney – while Rick Santorum once looked competitive there, Romney has pulled out to a 15-point lead in most polls – but Michigan is a neck-and-neck race.  The latest round of polling, from multiple sources, paint Michigan as a 1 or 2-point race, within a 4-point margin of error.

The two most recent polls, collected at RealClearPolitics, are from Michigan’s Mitchell Research & Communications (partnered with Rosetta Stone Communications of Georgia) and the national firm Public Policy Polling.  The two polls are mirror images of each other: Mitchell has Romney 1 point ahead, leading Santorum 37-36 percent, while PPP has Santorum up by 1 point, leading Romney 38-37.  Both are polls of likely voters.  PPP covered two days, Sunday and Monday, while Mitchell’s poll was conducted entirely on Sunday.

PPP’s analysis concludes that “momentum seems to be swinging in Santorum’s direction.”  One big obstacle for Santorum is that while he has a big 10-point lead among those who have not voted yet, fully 18 percent of the Michigan vote has already been cast, via absentee ballot, and Romney’s lead with them was even larger.

PPP also noted a significant “Operation Chaos” effect, with heavy Democrat support for Santorum in the open primary, presumably designed to muddy the results and keep the Republican primary going, in the belief this helps President Obama’s re-election effort.  The Santorum campaign would likely argue that some portion of this Democrat support is sincere, and comes from the “Reagan Democrats” Santorum has been courting.  Romney is actually ahead 43-38 among Republican voters in the PPP poll.

Mitchell Research, however, sees the momentum going Romney’s way, noting that he has made small but significant gains among women, evangelicals, and Tea Party voters.  “Romney seems to have stopped the serious erosion that we saw in our poll last night among the key fiscal and social conservative constituencies,” the analysis concludes.

Interestingly, Mitchell’s poll shows Santorum is ahead by 5 points among independent voters, but they’ve got Romney in the lead among Democrats, 26-25.  That’s very different than the picture of mischievous Democrats flocking to Santorum painted by the PPP poll.

Because the Michigan race is so tight, hordes of robots have been unleashed by every campaign.  There probably haven’t been this many robots deployed on a battlefield since the finale of The Phantom Menace. 

There has been some controversy surrounding the robocalls.  The Associated Press notes that one robocall from the Santorum campaign encourages Democrat voters to “send a loud message” to Romney by voting for Santorum.  The ad is designed to create the vague impression that it has support from organized labor – it purports to be “supported by hard-working Democratic men and women” while duly acknowledging it was paid for by the Santorum campaign. 

The Santorum robocall also says, “Romney supported the bailouts for his Wall Street, billionaire buddies, but opposed the auto bailouts. That was a slap in the face to every Michigan worker, and we’re not going to let Romney get away with it.” 

Conveniently not mentioned is that Rick Santorum also opposed the auto bailouts.  A Santorum spokesman explained to CBS News that the message is not disingenuous, because “Romney supported the financial industry bailout while opposing the auto bailout, while Santorum opposed both, suggesting the issue is consistency.”  They probably had trouble finding a robot clever enough to explain it that way.

Romney says these phone calls are “a dirty trick” during a Fox & Friends appearance, as related by KERA News of Texas:

“It’s outrageous to see Rick Santorum team up with the Obama people and go out after the union labor in Detroit to try to get them to vote against me. Look, we don’t want Democrats deciding who our nominee’s going to be, we want Republicans deciding who our nominees are going to be.

“I just think it’s outrageous and disgusting, a terrible dirty trick at the last hour, by the way, late in the afternoon on the day before the election, maybe hoping no one would notice, they start sending out calls to Democrats, union members, telling them to go into the Republican primary and vote against Mitt Romney,” he said.

Romney spokesman Ryan Williams made a witty bank shot off Santorum’s most unfortunate line from the last Republican debate by observing that “Rick Santorum has moved beyond just ‘taking one for the team.’  He is now willing to wear the other team’s jersey if he thinks it will get him more votes.”  I wonder if the Romney people have any telephone robots with such advanced sarcasm programming.

A somewhat similar robocall encouraging Democrats to “embarrass Mitt Romney and expose him as the weak frontrunner that he is, by supporting Rick Santorum on Tuesday” actually is being financed by Joe DiSano, a Democrat strategist in Michigan.  He told CNN the Michigan Democrat Party has neither endorsed nor condemned his efforts. 

There have also been reports of a pro-Santorum robocall in Michigan targeting gun owners, and urging them to compare Santorum’s A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association with Romney, who is heard saying “I don’t line up with the NRA,” and portrayed as a “disaster” for gun rights.  The NRA was not involved in this ad, and has not endorsed a candidate:

We’re not doing anything,” said Andrew Arulanandam, director of Public Affairs for NRA-ILA, or Institute for Legislative Action. “Our position is anyone would be better than Barack Obama. It’s absolutely wrong. We are not paying for anything. We’re not spending one cent. That is not us — completely, unequivocally not us.”

Arulanandam said there’s no way a campaign or someone supporting a campaign, could have gotten their member list. But someone could get another list, like a hunting-license list, that could have some overlap.

I haven’t seen a description of this robocall that said it implied it was from the NRA, so I don’t know that there’s a “dirty tricks” objection here, beyond creating the impression an endorsement was given by mentioning Santorum’s rating.  

Update: An alternative view of the robocall kerfuffle from Michelle Malkin, who hears the moist bleating of the waaaaaahmbulance in Romney’s complaint, and asks: “If Romney can’t put away Santorum and can’t handle a run-of-the-mill robocall, how is he going to handle Team Obama’s Chicago goons and the Democrat deacons of truly dirty tricks?”

For my part, I think Santorum’s Democrat robocall is tactically understandable but strategically inadvisable – not a “dirty trick” but a mistake, because it serves to undercut the far more reasoned appeal to “Reagan Democrats” he wants to make.  The way he’s doing this could come back to haunt him later, when he’s trying to win those folks away from President Bailout in the general election.

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Written By

John Hayward began his blogging career as a guest writer at Hot Air under the pen name "Doctor Zero," producing a collection of essays entitled Doctor Zero: Year One. He is a great admirer of free-market thinkers such as Arthur Laffer, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Sowell. He writes both political and cultural commentary, including book and movie reviews. An avid fan of horror and fantasy fiction, he has produced an e-book collection of short horror stories entitled Persistent Dread. John is a former staff writer for Human Events. He is a regular guest on the Rusty Humphries radio show, and has appeared on numerous other local and national radio programs, including G. Gordon Liddy, BattleLine, and Dennis Miller.

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