At home … Mitt Romney in Michigan. Photo: NYT
DETROIT: The Republican presidential frontrunner, Mitt Romney, has criss-crossed Michigan in a final round of campaigning before today’s showdown with his main rival, Rick Santorum, as polls showed the two were neck and neck.
If Mr Romney cannot win his home state, where he was born and where his father was governor, it would be a psychological blow from which his campaign might not recover.
After the long slog of primaries and caucuses since Iowa on January 3, Michigan could be make or break for both campaigns, with Mr Romney either confirming his lead status or handing it over to Mr Santorum before next week’s Super Tuesday contests, when many states hold elections to choose delegates who nominate the presidential candidate.
Both campaign teams, in a tactical move aimed at getting supporters out and preparing the ground for defeat, have attempted to lower expectations.
Mr Santorum had been well ahead in the polls two weeks ago but he has seen the lead vanish and Mr Romney move slightly ahead. However, Mr Romney’s campaign has repeatedly misfired, with mistakes such as choosing a near-empty football stadium as a campaign venue in Detroit on Friday.
At the same event he reinforced his image as the mega-rich candidate out of touch with the average American by casually mentioning his wife had two Cadillacs. On Sunday he did it again. In an odd move, Mr Romney briefly left the campaign trail in Michigan to put in an appearance at a NASCAR racing event in Florida, hoping he would get more television coverage than at rallies. He admitted he did not follow it as closely as the most ardent fans but had ”friends who are NASCAR owners”.
Mr Santorum’s campaign is sponsoring a car in the race, complete with his logo, but it is starting well back in the field.
The pollster Public Policy Polling puts Mr Romney on 39 per cent in Michigan, Mr Santorum on 37 per cent, Ron Paul on 19 per cent and Newt Gingrich on 9 per cent. In Arizona, where about half the electorate have already voted, the results so far are estimated to be two to one in Mr Romney’s favour.
National polls suggest the intense infighting in what is turning into a protracted Republican race is damaging the party and that Barack Obama will be the beneficiary. He will face the eventual winner of the Republican nominating race for the White House in November.
Mr Santorum said that even to run Mr Romney close in his home state was a victory of sorts. ”This is not a place, frankly, that I thought we were going to be competing at the level we’re competing,” he said.
To win the nomination a candidate needs 1114 delegates, a majority of those attending the party convention in Tampa, Florida, in August. So far Mr Romney has only 123, Mr Santorum 72, Mr Gingrich 32 and Mr Paul 19.
Guardian News Media