Craig Eisele on …..

February 26, 2012

Santorum Bets He will Play Better Than Romney in Michigan

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mr. Craig @ 8:39 am

ROY, Mich. – If Mitt Romney is counting on winning Michigan’s primary because he’s from the state, Rick Santorum is betting he’ll win here by better connecting with the state’s voters.

The former Pennsylvania senator has so far managed to battle equally with Romney in the state where the former Massachusetts governor was raised. Romney won the primary here in 2008, and had been expected to easily win again this year before Santorum upset Romney in a trio of mid-February contests.

And campaigning in the state, Santorum’s strategy has become clear. He’s courting Michigan’s broad, middle class electorate, a group that’s been affected strongly by the economic downturn, by focusing on themes of reviving manufacturing, bringing down energy prices, and crafting policies to encourage families.

“I care about the very poor,” Santorum said at a Friday night rally in Lincoln Park, a blue collar community downriver from the site of Ford’s famed River Rouge plant. “I’m a 100 percenter, not 99 versus 1.”

Said Len Marshick of Belleville, Mich.: “He holds the same values we do.”

Santorum is a candidate who cut his political teeth in Pennsylvania by being able to win over broad swaths of blue collar workers in that state’s most populous corners. He eked out victory in Iowa by courting those voters and the state’s social conservatives, and relied on a similar recipe to conjure upsets of Mitt Romney in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

“I think he’s more work, work, work – a family type of person,” said Frank Lughermo, an undecided voter who grew up in southwest Detroit before leaving the city for the suburbs after the 1960s riots. “He can relate to people in industry.”

Santorum is courting in Michigan the very voters with whom Romney has struggled to connect: the working class and social conservatives – the famous “Regan Democrats” who make up a large segment of the electorate here. Romney has fared better with wealthier voters, according to exit polls of preceding primaries, while the margins are closer among the less well-heeled.

Santorum’s effort to connect with the middle class was maybe most clear in a quip Santorum made Saturday morning before a group of conservative activists, which won him a standing ovation.

“President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college,” he said. “What a snob!”

Santorum’s campaigned in the state with a “Made in America” slogan more reminiscent of a union imprint than a Republican presidential campaign. He assailed Romney for having opposed the 2009 bailouts of GM and Chrysler, while, within the same time frame, supporting the Wall Street bailout.

“If you’re going to bail out one, and help your friends on Wall Street … why pick one, and not the other?” he asked, conceding in the meanwhile his own opposition to both.

But Santorum still faces challenges in driving that message home, namely his less robust fundraising and organizational infrastructure compared to Romney.

That deficit was on display Friday night, when Santorum arrived – late – in snowy conditions to address a Knights of Columbus hall that was less than half full to hear Santorum deliver a “major” address about his first 100 days in office.

Santorum laid out a 10-point plan to specify his agenda, though the specific points were sometimes lost in an especially long-winded speech, a hallmark of Santorum’s campaign style.

“Nobody is a perfect candidate, but he’s probably the most overall consistent – probably has the least ups and downs,” said Dan Fuller, an engineer for a material supplier in the auto industry.

By contrast, Romney’s campaign is more scripted – almost to a fault, judging by the cavernous backdrop for his economic address at Ford Field, remarks at which included a minor gaffe about his wife, Ann, owning two Cadillacs (a departure from prepared remarks).

Romney’s speeches are peppered with references to his upbringing in Michigan, a reminder to voters that his father, George, served here as governor.

Betty Ridan, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., said at Saturday’s conference that she was a longtime Romney supporter precisely because of his roots in the state. But she also described Santorum’s speech as “inspiring,” and admitted the former Pennsylvania senator would have been her second choice.

What victory may mean for Santorum is a gut sense – a feeling by Michiganders that, for all of his warts, Santorum is more representative of their needs and issues than any of the other candidates.

“You see it too often where people vote because the media tells them that this is the guy that looks like the president,” said Sister Maria of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. About a dozen of the sisters, wearing full habits, attended the Friday speech. “That doesn’t make sense to me.”

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1 Comment »

  1. Santorum needs to quit whining. He is a major flip flopper. Ask the people from Pennsylvania.

    Like

    Comment by lovetheusa1234 — February 26, 2012 @ 9:29 am


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