“Mitt Romney won a major victory in Michigan. The candidate now moves on to next week’s Super Tuesday contests with a full head of steam and expectations of securing the nomination in short order.”
That is what the Romney campaign is feeding the press in the aftermath of the Michigan primary.
But a closer look at Michigan tells a very different story.
In spite of their assurances to the contrary; the Romney campaign machine was not built for the long haul. They expected to secure the nomination relatively quickly; and an easy win in Romney’s home state of Michigan was a foregone conclusion. But two weeks before the primary, the campaign found itself trailing Santorum by 10 points. Little skirmishes of discontent between the “Death Star’s” headquarters in Boston and operators in the field became a regular occurrence. The campaign was forced to spend over $3 million on attack ads to fight their way back into contention; money that they had not planned on spending on a slam dunk contest. In the end Romney won by the narrowest of margins in no small part due to the much publicized implosion of the Santorum campaign. When the delegates were finally counted, Romney and Santorum each ended up with 15.
Romney walks away from Michigan a weakened candidate. He struggled mightily to win his home state against an undisciplined opponent who has no organization and very little money. His campaign coffers are low. For the first time he has been forced to publically ask supporters to dig into their wallets. His problem is that over 50% of his donors have already given $2500 and cannot give anymore.
Conflicts over strategy have been leaked to the press. Critics want him to take a more positive approach, focusing on his plans for the country’s future. In previous contests Romney has overwhelmed his opponents with negative attack ads. But this carpet bombing tactic has become less effective. Romney outspent Santorum 6-1 in Michigan but barely squeaked out a win. And if not for Santorum’s implosion right before the primary; Romney most likely would have lost.
Romney is struggling to close the deal. His costly win in Michigan exposed weaknesses in his organization and his finances and gained him little in the all important delegate count. He may eventually win the nomination. But chinks in the “Death Star” have been exposed. Romney will have to work hard to repair the damage before Super Tuesday. He can ill afford another "victory" like Michigan.