Note the significant difference in the stories below about Mitt Romney's narrow victory in the Republican primary in Michigan, his home state, and his more comfortable win in Arizona --- The Washington Post portrays the night as "an important boost" for the former Massachusetts governor, while Al Jazeera English assesses they "will do little to dispel the doubts" about Romney's campaign. Nate Silver of the website 538.com summarises, "Tonight in awkward middle ground between 'huge night for Romney!'narratives and "'boy that was close!' narratives."
The easy conclusion is that Romney did enough to prevent being stuck with a Loser label that cannot be removed but did not do enough to put away his main challenger, Rick Santorum, before the showpiece of "Super Tuesday" next week, in which voters in 10 states will make decisions.
Beyond that, the "safe" analysis might that by Chris Cilizza, published below: "Romney is — as he has been since the day he entered this race — the best funded and best organized candidate in the race. That means that Romney has the operation in place to capitalize on the boost of momentum that he should get — in terms of media coverage and donor dollars — in the wake of these two victories."
But then again, no analysis has proven "safe" in this Republican campaign....
Mitt Romney wins Arizona, Michigan primaries
David Fahrenthold, Washington Post
The victories will provide an important boost for Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who has sought to cast himself as the GOP’s inevitable nominee. He has now won primary contests in six states: New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada, Maine, Michigan and Arizona.
“We didn’t win by a lot, but we won by enough. And that’s all that counts,” Romney told supporters Tuesday night in the Detroit suburb of Novi.
He said nothing about Santorum in his speech, instead criticizing President Obama at length and trying to boil down a complicated economic message.
“I’m going to deliver on more jobs, less debt, smaller government,” Romney said. Later, he returned to another three-point message about government: “I’ll make it simpler, smaller and smarter.”
Santorum and former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) have won a total of five states. On Tuesday night, Santorum cast the close outcome in Michigan as a sign of success, noting that it came in Romney’s “back yard.”
“A month ago, they didn’t know who we are, but they do now,” Santorum told supportersin Grand Rapids. “The people of Michigan looked into the hearts of the candidates, and all I have to say is ‘I love you back.’ ”
Romney scores double US primary win
Al Jazeera English
Mitt Romney has scored a double victory in the latest US presidential Republican primaries, but only after a tight race with main rival Rick Santorum in Michigan.
Romney's narrow in his native Michigan, however, will do little to dispel the doubts about his ability to rally the party's conservative base and take the US presidency from incumbent Barack Obama.
"Wow! What a night," an obviously relieved Romney told cheering supporters at his state campaign headquarters in Novi, Michigan late on Tuesday night. "We didn't win by a lot but we won by enough and that's all that counts."
Santorum, who is still riding high on momentum gained from primary wins in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado on February 7, also highlighted the closeness of the race.
"A month ago they didn't know who we are but they do now," Santorum told supporters after the results were announced. "We came into the backyard of one of my opponents in a race that everyone said, well, just ignore it, you have really no chance here," Santorum said.
With 87 percent of Michigan's precincts reporting, Romney had 41 per cent to Santorum's 38 per cent. Ron Paul, the Texas congressman, was in third place with 12 per cent, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was bringing up the rear with seven per cent.
Romney, the long-time frontrunner in the race to challenge Obama in November's presidential election, was a more comfortable winner in Arizona, where he was ahead of Santorum by a margin of 48 per cent to 26 per cent, with 62 per cent of precincts reporting. Gingrich was in third with 16 per cent and Paul came in last with eight per cent.
Mitt Romney in Michigan, Arizona: Just win, baby
Chris Cilizza, Washington Post
In politics, winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. The score sheet only shows “W’s” and “L’s”. Moral victories are for the people who didn’t win.
That simple truth is why Mitt Romney had a good night on Tuesday with victories in the Michigan and Arizona primaries. No, Romney didn’t win his homestate by an overwhelming margin — or even the margin by which he beat Arizona Sen. John McCain in the 2008 Wolverine State primary. And, yes, he had to spend like crazy to beat back former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.
But, winning is winning. And when Romney needed to win — a loss in Michigan would have crippled his campaign beyond repair (or close to it) — he did.
“We didn’t win by a lot but we won by enough and that’s all that matters,” said Romney in his Michigan victory speech.
That does not mean, however, that the race is over. While Romney’s twin victories mean that he will extend his lead in the delegate race, Santorum’s solid Michigan showing coupled with the southern tilt of the states set to vote on Super Tuesday present ongoing problems for Romney. One example: A University of Cincinnati poll in Ohio released on Tuesday showed Santorum with a 37 percent to 26 percent lead over Romney.
And, exit polling in Michigan proves that Romney continues to have problems with the most conservative element of the Republican party, the bloc of voters who typically have an outsized say in the identity of the GOP nominee.
Roughly three in ten voters in the Michigan primary identified themselves as “very conservative”, according to exit polling. Among that group, Santorum won 50 percent of their votes as compared to just 35 percent for Romney. (Among “somewhat conservative”voters, Romney won 50 percent to 31 percent.)
The unanswerable question is what effect — if any — Romney’s dual victories in Michigan and Arizona will have on the race going forward.
Without a single debate in the six days between now and Super Tuesday, expect considerable talk from the party establishment that Romney proved his mettle by winning Tuesday night just a few weeks after being swept by Santorum in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado.
Romney is — as he has been since the day he entered this race — the best funded and best organized candidate in the race. That means that Romney has the operation in place to capitalize on the boost of momentum that he should get — in terms of media coverage and donor dollars — in the wake of these two victories.
How might Romney lose the momentum he will gain from Tuesday night’s sweep? Make more gaffes like he did in the final days before the Michigan primary — gaffes that paint him as not just wealthy but, much more problematically, out of touch. (Romney acknowledged Tuesday that he had made a series of mistakes as a candidate. Now he has to eliminate those unforced errors.)
Romney’s victories on Tuesday night aren’t determinative. The fight for the Republican nomination will go on. But, the alternative would have either ended his campaign or forced a top-to-bottom overhaul as he sought to show that he knew change was needed.
When we look back in the history books, all it will say is that Romney won Michigan and Arizona. And that’s the best he and his team could have hoped for Tuesday night.