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Americas

Winner of Michigan and Arizona primaries: Obama?

Text by Jon FROSCH

Latest update : 2012-07-17

After winning primaries in Arizona and Michigan on Tuesday, Mitt Romney is once again considered the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. So why is President Obama smiling?

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has reclaimed his frontrunner status once again, after winning primaries in Arizona and Michigan on Tuesday.

But he emerges from the victories battered and bruised.

An increasingly vitriolic standoff against rival Rick Santorum and the probability of a drawn-out fight for the nomination have seriously weakened Romney’s candidacy, pundits say, with President Obama reaping the benefits.

The lack of enthusiasm that has plagued Romney’s campaign was evident in his less-than-convincing win over Santorum in Michigan (41% to 38%), a state that offered him several advantages: Romney was born and raised there, his father was the state’s governor in the 60s, and Romney won the state’s primary decisively against John McCain in 2008.

Romney’s slim win in Michigan and wider one in Arizona (where he was boosted by the state’s Mormon population) have therefore done little to dispel his party’s concerns that the candidate is failing to transform anti-Obama sentiment into excitement to take back the White House.

In an interview late Tuesday with The New York Times, former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin noted, “It does seem that his campaign is having a tough time sort of garnering…not just that support, but that energy that’s needed….just the fact that he’s had such a fight in his home state is evidence of that blessing not yet being given to him across the board.”

Economy advantage slipping through Romney’s fingers

In an election that will hinge on the economy, Romney, a seasoned businessman, was expected to hold a clear advantage over his Republican rivals and the president, who has been widely criticised for failing to spur sufficient job growth.

But Romney has fumbled on the issue, turning what should have been his trump card into an Achilles’ heel. Revelations that Romney paid only a 13.9% tax rate on a multi-million dollar income, coupled with a string of gaffes that drew attention to his extravagant wealth, are seen as major turn-offs for economically strapped voters across the country.

Obama, in the meantime, has sharpened the contrast between his own policy proposals, aimed at bolstering the middle class, and Romney’s image as a capitalist looking to protect the wealthiest Americans’ wallets.

Gradually improving jobs and market data have further helped the president make the case that he, and not Romney, is the best positioned to shepherd the US economy into a more robust phase of recovery.

Commentators on both sides of the political spectrum have noted Romney’s growing vulnerabilities. “The White House might prefer to face Rick Santorum in the general election, but an out-of-touch rich guy…will make for a pretty inviting target in his own right,” The New York Times’ conservative columnist Ross Douthat wrote on Wednesday. “Between his verbal miscues and his clumsy attempts to defend his right flank on policy, the likely Republican nominee is suddenly headed for the kind of political and ideological cul-de-sac that losing presidential candidates often end up occupying.”

According to Douthat, Romney’s win in Michigan, does not solve his problem. “Thanks to the voters of Michigan, Romney’s path to the nomination is as wide open as ever,” the columnist concluded. “But his path to the White House has narrowed considerably.”

Rough road ahead

Recent surveys support Douthat’s assessment, with a Politico/George Washington University poll published February 27 showing Obama beating Romney by ten percentage points and Santorum by 11 in a general election. Even more distressing for Republicans was the finding that Obama is leading Romney among independents – the most coveted segment of the electorate in close elections -- 49% to 37%.

Those figures have led analysts like The New Yorker’s John Cassidy to offer a withering appraisal of Republican presidential prospects, even in the wake of Romney’s latest primary successes. “It is virtually certain that the Republicans will be saddled with a battered candidate whose approval rating with independents has plummeted almost twenty percentage points over the past couple of months (Romney),” Cassidy wrote Wednesday, “or, less likely but still not completely out of the question, with a surefire loser (Santorum).”

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd was even more scathing. “Mitt Romney needs to be left alone to limp across the finish line,” she wrote cheekily on Wednesday, “so he can devote his full time and attention to losing to President Obama.”

In the meantime, Romney was celebrating Tuesday night, before preparing to hit the campaign trail again ahead of “Super Tuesday” on March 6, when ten states hold primaries and caucuses. Several of those states, like Georgia, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, are considered long shots for Romney, and others, like Ohio, are toss-ups.


 

Date created : 2012-02-29

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