The Republican presidential primary in Michigan Tuesday is reportedly going to be a "game changer," and yet, no matter what happens, no one expects the game to be changed enough that it actually stops. Not the Secret Service, which will start protecting Rick Santorum this week, and not Mitt Romney's campaign, which is telling donors to prepare for the race to last till May. The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol says he feels the momentum is on Santorum's side, but polls indicate otherwise. Public Policy Polling finds that Romney's gained 6 percentage points in Michigan the last week, while Santorum hasn't budged. That puts Romney just ahead, with 39 percent to Santorum's 37 percent. (The pollster expects Romney to destroy Santorum in Arizona, the other state voting February 28.) And the polls give concrete evidence to the impression of many Republicans, as The Wall Street Journal reports, that the long primary is no longer helping the candidates. Maine's Gov. Paul LePage -- no mushy moderate, having angered a ton of people by removing a pro-union mural -- says all the remaining candidates have been "injured," and that the party needs someone new.
A Politico poll shows LePage isn't wrong that the candidates have been hurt. A new survey finds only 33 percent of independents see Romney favorably, while more than half, 51 percent, see him unfavorably. President Obama beating him 53 percent to 43 percent -- in part because he wins 49 percent to 27 percent among independents. Obama beats Santorum 53 percent to 42 percent, the poll shows. And the candidates have been hurt among Republican voters, too. In Michigan, PPP finds, only 54 percent view Santorum favorably, compared to 67 percent two weeks ago, and 39 percent see him unfavorably, compared to just 23 percent two weeks ago. Aware of the negative tone the campaign has taken, The Weekly Standard writes:
"[W]e don’t know whether Romney or Santorum would do better at surviving the assault the Obama campaign will surely mount. That campaign will paint Romney as a plutocrat and Santorum as a theocrat. It’s hard to say today which cartoonish charge will be more damaging, or which candidate will be more effective at ducking Democratic spitballs and deflecting media mudpies."