When it comes to picking winners, the Michigan primaries has a dismal track record. 1968: George Wallace. 1980: George H. W. Bush. 1988: Jesse Jackson. 2000: John McCain. 2008: Hillary Clinton. As often than not, Michigan gets it dead wrong in backing the candidate that eventually emerges victorious in the national contest. And today, it looks as if right wing nut Rick Santorum may pull off a stunning upset victory. I have a feeling that he just may do it. My reasoning is this: if the polls are as close as they are, and you figure into the equation that Michigan has open primaries, meaning, that Democrats can vote in them as well, there’s going to be Democrats intentionally voting for a Republican, that Republican being Sen. Santorum, a Republican they detest, to weaken the field. So if it’s a close race, and you have a concerted effort by dedicated conservatives to push for a believer, and swarms of Democrats pulling the lever as well, it’s likely that an upset by Santorum is in the offing. This would inevitably draw out the nominating process, and it would do so in a way that weakens, rather than strengthens the Republicans.
I’ve heard a lot of comparisons between this race and the Democrats in 2008. Long campaigns contested by two contenders. You could say that Romney is the Hillary Clinton of this race, the institutional/establishment candidate, and that Santorum, ironically, is the Obama candidate, the long shot that has scores of passionate backers. But that’s about where the likenesses end. The fact of the matter is that while the Democrats did indeed have a long and bruising primary battle, eventually the stronger candidate emerged from the contest, that candidate being Obama. In this case, it’s not at all clear that Romney will prevail, as his support within the party and the nation at large seems to be tepid at best. Democrats in 2008 were eventually able to come around to Obama and put the past perceived slights and conflicts of the primary season behind them, whereas that’s again not at all clear it would happen this time around for the Republicans.
I hope that Republicans do go ahead and nominate Santorum. I can’t think of a clearer contrast that the Republicans could draw between themselves and Obama. It’s often said that Democrats snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. With the economy as weak as it is, it’s Republicans who are doing just that, reverting to angry rants about retrograde positions on issues as minor as birth control, when they seem to be throwing away their trump card. Good for Democrats, bad for the Republicans, and good for the country.