“When they asked Mitt Romney about his ties to Wisconsin, you would have thought the question was a natural for him. We send the most athletes of any state to the Winter Olympics and organizing the Winter Olympics was one of the great achievements of his career. Last September, in fact, there was a big fundraising event for Romney here and it featured Wisconsin’s Olympians—[champion speedskaters] Dan Jansen, Casey Fitzrandolph, and Bonnie Blair. So what does he say his tie to Wisconsin is? It’s how American Motors had a plant here when his father ran the company in the 1950’s and he kept it open by closing an outlet in Detroit.”
That story, related to HUMAN EVENTS by veteran Wisconsin Republican strategist Scott Becher, illustrates why, even with all polls giving Romney healthy leads over Rick Santorum in the Badger State’s primary Tuesday, few are willing to say that the GOP front-runner will win handily and finally wrap up the Republican presidential nomination.
Despite what many call a poorly run campaign or Romney’s occasional awkwardness or the unwillingness of GOP voters to fully embrace him, an NBC/Marist College poll shows the former Massachusetts governor leading Santorum by a margin of 40-to-33 percent among likely GOP voters in Wisconsin. Marquette Law School’s poll showed Romney leading Santorum 39-to-31 percent, and Rasmussen calls it 46-to-33 percent for Romney over Santorum.
That looks fine, as far as the Romney campaign team is concerned. But, between his campaign and the SuperPAC that supports him, Romney has outspent the Santorum campaign in the state by more than a margin of ten-to-one—roughly $3.5 million to $300,000.
Moreover, Romney has been successively endorsed by several Wisconsin political heavyweights, most recently Sen. Ron Johnson and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.
So why are so many political observers reluctant to say he will run away with Wisconsin’s 42 national convention delegates in the winner-take-all primary Tuesday?
Santorum does not in any way look like a contender who will soon throw in the towel. Following his triumphant appearance at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference March 24, the former senator jetted to Wisconsin to address that state’s Faith and Freedom Coalition event. At the conclave of fellow cultural conservatives, one observer told us, “Santorum was treated like a rock star.”
In the last two days, Santorum has been ubiquitous in Wisconsin. He was in Green Bay Friday and Platteville Saturday.
Ron Paul, relatively quiet in recent weeks, is making a stand in the state. Last week, he drew an overflow crowd of more than 5200 at the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin, long known as a liberal haven.
Overshadowing the primary is what many call the “dress rehearsal” for the presidential contest—namely, the special election on whether to replace Republican Gov. Scott Walker, which will be on the statewide ballot June 5. Santorum and Newt Gingrich have all declared their solidarity with Walker, and last week Romney worked a phone bank on Walker’s behalf at the embattled governor’s Fitchburg headquarters.
All signs today point to a Romney win in Wisconsin tomorrow evening. As to whether it will be the decisive “gamechanger” he is seeking, that’s another story.