Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney predicted that he will win the primary election in his home state of Michigan tomorrow as polls show him gaining on rival Rick Santorum.
Romney cited a Rasmussen poll, released Feb. 24, that showed him with a 6 percentage-point lead over Santorum. The same poll more than a week ago showed Santorum with a 15-point lead.
“That’ll be huge, having come from so far behind here in Michigan,” the former Massachusetts governor said on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “Obviously, the momentum is in the right direction.”
A Romney loss in Michigan, where he spent his boyhood and where his father, George Romney, served as governor and an automobile company chief executive officer, would be a blow to his candidacy. Romney has been struggling to retain his front- runner status since Santorum swept the Feb. 7 contests in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota.
Romney, 64, leads in Arizona, which will also hold a primary tomorrow. Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, endorsed Romney yesterday during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“Mitt is by far the person who can go in and win,” Brewer said.
As tomorrow’s primaries approach, Santorum and Romney have been attacking President Barack Obama and asserting their own conservative credentials.
Both men, in talk show appearances yesterday, criticized the president for apologizing for the burning of Korans by American troops at Bagram Air Field near Kabul, which sparked violent protests and led to the killing of two American military advisers.
“A mistake was made -- he should not have apologized for something that wasn’t done deliberately,” Santorum said on ABC’s “This Week” program. “It shows weakness.”
Romney, on “Fox News Sunday,” said the president’s apology “is very difficult for the American people to countenance.”
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Robert Gibbs, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign, defended the president.
Gibbs Defends Obama
Obama is trying to “diffuse the tension that’s there” so that Afghanistan does not become a “safe haven” for al-Qaeda, Gibbs said.
On domestic issues, Santorum, on “This Week,” criticized a tax plan Romney released last week that would limit deductions on top income earners. He compared the former Massachusetts governor with the Occupy Wall Street protestors who have argued that the top 1 percent of earners should pay more taxes.
Romney said on Fox his plan was aimed at helping the middle class. “What I’m looking to do is lower the margin rate for all Americans,” he said.
Romney also defended himself against a different charge: that he is part of an out-of-touch elite. He drew criticism last week when he casually mentioned during an appearance that his wife, Ann, has two Cadillacs.
“We have a car in California; we have a car back in Boston where our other home is,” Romney said on Fox. “If people think there’s something wrong with being successful, they should vote for the other guy.”
On that issue, Romney got some assistance from New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie, who appeared yesterday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.
“The cat’s out of the bag, Bob, on the fact that the governor’s wealthy,” Christie told host Bob Schieffer. “So he has a number of cars. Many people who’ve made a lot of money over time do.”
Santorum also defended comments he made Feb. 25, when he called Obama a “snob” for saying all Americans should attend college.
Colleges are a hostile place for people with conservative political views, Santorum said on NBC yesterday.
“We have some real problems at our college campuses with political correctness, with an ideology that is forced upon people,” he said.
Both Santorum and Romney stressed their conservatism during appearances yesterday. Santorum said on ABC that he doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state, noting that a speech on the topic by former President John F. Kennedy makes him want to “throw up.”
Church and State
“I don’t believe that the separation of church and state is absolute,” Santorum said. “The First Amendment means the free exercise of religion and that means bringing people and their faith into the public square.”
Romney said the biggest misconception about his candidacy is that he “can’t be conservative.”
“I’m a solid conservative -- a committed conservative with the kind of principles I think America needs,” he said.
A poll of Pennsylvania voters, released Feb. 25 by the Institute for Public Opinion at Muhlenberg College, found that Obama would beat former Pennsylvania Senator Santorum by 49 percent to 41 percent and would win against Romney by 48 percent to 37 percent.
The poll, which was conducted in a telephone survey of 625 registered voters between Feb. 15 and 21 of this year, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
As Romney, Santorum, and other candidates struggle to build support among Republican voters, political analysts have begun asking whether it’s too late for someone else to get into the race. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, rumored as a possible contender, said on “Fox News Sunday” that he won’t run.
“I crossed that decision bridge a long time ago,” he said. “Running for president is something I never thought about doing, and nothing’s changed my mind.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Clea Benson in Washington at Cbenson20@bloomerg.net Sara Forden in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
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