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Romney aims for huge win in Arizona and slightly leads in Michigan as Santorum campaign stutters

With his back to the wall last week, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appears to have bounced back in Michigan and Arizona to challenges from once surging rival Rick Santorum. Santorum has gone from only three points behind Romney in Arizona ten days ago to now 13 points back in a Real Clear Politics poll, and once 15 points ahead of Romney in Michigan two weeks ago to now neck and neck with a slight edge to the former governor of Massachusetts.

Public Policy Polling is predicting that Romney is set to win big in Arizona, ahead of Santorum by 17 points in their poll released Sunday:

"Romney's winning basically winning every voter group in Arizona, even those he's

tended to do quite poorly with. He leads Santorum 39-33 with Evangelicals, 39-23 with

Tea Party voters (Santorum's in 3rd, Gingrich is actually 2nd at 30%), and 37-29 with

those describing themselves as 'very conservative.' We project the Mormon vote at 14%.

Romney leads 77-9 with them, but he has a 38-29 advantage with non-Mormons as well.

Seniors are a key base of support for him in Arizona as they are everywhere. He leads 53-

22 with them."

PPP accounts the Santorum collapse to major attacks on the former Pennsylvania senator's image:

"Santorum's image has taken a big hit over the last week in the state. His net favorability

has dropped 15 points from +34 (61/27) to just +19 (54/35). The debate Wednesday night

may have damaged his cause. 51% of likely voters report having watched it and he's

actually in 3rd place with those folks at 21%, behind Romney's 43% and Gingrich's 23%.

Santorum may also have misstepped by talking too much about social issues in the last

few weeks. 68% of Arizona voters say economic issues are their top concern when

deciding who to vote for, compared to just 11% who say social issues are paramount."

Santorum has argued that his campaign does not put the nation's economic woes in the backseat to emphasize social issues, but rather that the media attention choses to primarily scrutinize his opinion on domestic issues such as contraception, gay marriage and the separation of church and state. Santorum further argues that the problems that the nation currently faces are often connected, as is the case with the breakdown of the American family linked to longterm unemployment and crime, and emphasis on social issues like abortion not being an attempt to impose his religous believes on others but rather a fight for freedom from the imposition of government. MSNBC reports that Santorum defended himself against criticism of his campaign's focus during a speech in Michigan Monday:

"'The separation of church and state that our founders believed in, which is what I just described, has now been turned on its head,' he said. 'And now, it’s the church, people of faith, who have no right to come to the public square and express their points of view, or practice their faith outside of their church.'

That was received with applause from the 300 supporters in attendance.

'All reporters in the back, they say, 'Oh there’s Santorum talking about social issues again,'' he said. 'No, I’m talking about freedom.

I’m talking about government imposing themselves on your lives.'"

As Santorum has been derailed by setbacks in the state and general electorate, Romney seems confident as ever, as POLITICO reports on Monday that he is already predicting a win in Michigan:

"Romney’s confidence is consistent with the optimism expressed by his advisers that he’ll win the state where he was born and raised.

The former Massachusetts governor told the Grand Rapids Press in a Feb. 16 interview that losing the state 'won’t happen' and his senior strategist, Stuart Stevens, told reporters last week that 'we are going to win Michigan.'

The adviser predicted Michigan will be tight, but said Romney’s superior organization will carry him to a victory 'with some more room to spare than folks think.'”

Romney focused on the economy while criticizing his opponent Santorum during a speech to a crowd of about 250 at a factory in Rockford.

“I’ve spent 25 years in business. I understand why jobs go, why they come. I understand what happens to corporate profit, where it goes if the government takes it. This is what I’ve done throughout my life,” POLITICO reports Romney said.

“Sen. Santorum is a nice guy, but he’s never had a job in the private sector. He’s worked as a lobbyist, worked as an elected official, that’s fine. But if the issue of the day is the economy, I think to create jobs it helps to have a guy as president who has had a job.”

 

One last thing…
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