GOP Primary Mayhem Can't Stop, Won't Stop

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The Republican presidential primary in Michigan Tuesday is reportedly going to be a "game changer," and yet, no matter what happens, no one expects the game to be changed enough that it actually stops. Not the Secret Service, which will start protecting Rick Santorum this week, and not Mitt Romney's campaign, which is telling donors to prepare for the race to last till May. The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol says he feels the momentum is on Santorum's side, but polls indicate otherwise. Public Policy Polling finds that Romney's gained 6 percentage points in Michigan the last week, while Santorum hasn't budged. That puts Romney just ahead, with 39 percent to Santorum's 37 percent. (The pollster expects Romney to destroy Santorum in Arizona, the other state voting February 28.) And the polls give concrete evidence to the impression of many Republicans, as The Wall Street Journal reports, that the long primary is no longer helping the candidates. Maine's Gov. Paul LePage -- no mushy moderate, having angered a ton of people by removing a pro-union mural -- says all the remaining candidates have been "injured," and that the party needs someone new.

Politico poll shows LePage isn't wrong that the candidates have been hurt. A new survey finds only 33 percent of independents see Romney favorably, while more than half, 51 percent, see him unfavorably. President Obama beating him 53 percent to 43 percent -- in part because he wins 49 percent to 27 percent among independents. Obama beats Santorum 53 percent to 42 percent, the poll shows. And the candidates have been hurt among Republican voters, too. In Michigan, PPP finds, only 54 percent view Santorum favorably, compared to 67 percent two weeks ago, and 39 percent see him unfavorably, compared to just 23 percent two weeks ago. Aware of the negative tone the campaign has taken, The Weekly Standard writes:

"[W]e don’t know whether Romney or Santorum would do better at surviving the assault the Obama campaign will surely mount. That campaign will paint Romney as a plutocrat and Santorum as a theocrat. It’s hard to say today which cartoonish charge will be more damaging, or which candidate will be more effective at ducking Democratic spitballs and deflecting media mudpies."

Both candidates -- not the media -- gave the Obama campaign more material to work with this weekend, though in Romney's case it appeared to be an accident, while Santorum intentionally doubled down. Santorum is unlike most previous presidential candidates known for their social conservatism in that he makes the case for God in government using the language of a frat boy, which he once was. John F. Kennedy's speech on the separation of church and state made Santorum "sick," he said in Michigan; he told ABC News the idea of letting only secular folks in the public square "makes me want to throw up." We eagerly await to hear which aspect of this issue compels him to barf or blow chunks. It appears he has till May to say so.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.