Michigan And Ohio: Political Sisters Under The Skin

Of course, Michigan and Ohio will always be rivals — some might even say enemies on the football field, at least. But when it comes to politics, these two Great Lakes states are sisters under the skin. 

Last night’s Super Tuesday primary showed just how alike the two states are.

As he did last week in Michigan, Mitt Romney again squeaked out a victory in Ohio’s Super Tuesday primary. As he did last week, Rick Santorum showed that his strength lies with the most conservative Republicans, many in rural areas and in smaller towns.

And both men face the prospect that no matter what they did in the Michigan and Ohio primaries, President Barack Obama could beat either one come November.

Some tidbits from last night’s returns:

  • As in Michigan, Santorum led Romney in polls conducted in the weeks before the Ohio vote, only to see Romney close the gap and take a narrow victory. That might suggest polls are wrong, but it also shows that the Romney campaign believes in the “swoop and run” theory. It waits until the end to marshall its resources, and then pelts voters with ads and candidate appearances. So far, it’s worked in Michigan and Ohio.
  • Endorsements make a difference, for both candidates. In Michigan, Romney secured the endorsement of Gov. Rick Snyder about 10 days before the election. That helped with conservatives and moderates. In Ohio, Santorum was endorsed by the state’s attorney general, Mike DeWine, who switched his support from Romney. Even though Santorum ended up losing, the margin was much closer than it might have been without a high profile endorsement.
  • Shifts in population meant candidates had to get out of their comfort zones. It was easy in the past for Republicans to focus on suburban Oakland County, Mich., and Kent County, which encompasses Grand Rapids. But there are now Republicans flung all over the state, including the Upper Peninsula. Santorum campaigned there and nearly got every county. While Ohio’s biggest county remains Cuyahoga, candidates can’t only campaign there and expect to win. Franklin County, around Columbus, and Hamilton County in southern Ohio are must wins, too.

With two big Midwest states finished, the spotlight in our region will now turn to the illinois primary on March 20. The Chicago Sun-Times points out that Santorum went to high school in Mundelein, making him the only candidate with ties there. Will that give him any edge?

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