The latest word, still unofficial, is that Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum will each be allotted 15 delegates from Michigan.
No, I’m not going to try to pretend this means Santorum tied Romney. Romney beat him. Santorum stepped on his own message and his own momentum with his robo-calls aimed explicitly at Democrats — not that there was anything dirty or underhanded about them, despite Romney’s claims, but because they risked a backlash that, statistically, wasn’t worth risking because even the best payoff would not have been very large a percentage of the vote even if the calls had worked with no backlash at all. Running an underfunded campaign is an incredibly hard job, with all sorts of decisions made on the fly, Santorum’s team has pulled off a number of coups that were stunning, so it is clear they have done a fantastic job overall — but this one was a mistake, and polls show it hurt them significantly.
That said, here’s what the delegate tie, and the overall close result in the popular vote, says about Romney: It says he is incredibly weak. It says that he can be in his home state, his wife’s home state, the state his father served as governor, PLUS outspend his chief rival five to one, PLUS have his opponent make a series of mistakes in the worst ten days of that opponent’s campaign… and STILL not even win a majority of the delegates. That’s pitiful.
As for Santorum, he showed he has real staying power. Compare his performance with that of Newt Gingrich. Gingrich was up by a huge amount in Iowa, and ended up in a very weak fourth. He was up by a huge amount in Florida, next door to his home state, and ended up getting clobbered. He couldn’t take a punch.
Santorum faced a guy in his home state. Santorum was attacked and outspent just like Gingrich was; he was attacked not just by Romney but by Ron Paul; he was attacked (like Gingrich was) for five days straight by bad Drudge headlines; he was attacked and mispresented by the national media. Yet in a TOUGHER state to take down Romney than the states Gingrich operated in, without the same financial resources Gingrich had, Santorum fought to a virtual tie rather than getting clobbered.
What does this mean? It means this race isn’t over, not by a long shot. But if Santorum is to catch Romney, he needs to run a near-flawless campaign from here on. It can be done. He can win Washington, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Ohio, compete well in Idaho and Georgia, and then win Alabama the next week, and be very much in contention. But the window of opportunity has closed a little bit.
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