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Republicans Bring Shaken-Up Presidential Campaign to Southeast Michigan

Feb. 28 primary gains importance in fluid race; Santorum has Oakland event Feb. 16.

Next up on the calendar for the newly altered Republican campaign are Michigan and Arizona, sites of Feb. 28 presidential primaries. That means more political ads, more local media coverage and Metro Detroit candidate appearances.

Rick Santorum, freshly energized by three wins Tuesday, flies in next week for a Novi fund-raising dinner. Mitt Romney speaks at Ford Field in Detroit on Feb. 24 and surely will attend other events in the state where he grew up.

"We're hoping to do something with Romney here in Oakland," said county party chairman Jim Thienel, a Royal Oak business owner. "We would be thrilled to do a fund-raising dinner." He suggested that last week to David Fischer, a state campaign finance co-chairman, Thienel told Patch on Tuesday.

Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, the other two active candidates, haven't yet announced when they'll campaign here.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, won the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses and a nonbinding primary in Missouri on Tuesday – earning national headlines that say "upset," "stunning success" and "bounces back."

High-profile role

Because of that and Gingrich's win in South Carolina last month, "Michigan will play a bigger role in the selection of the nominee," said veteran political strategist Steve Mitchell of West Bloomfield. "Its importance comes because of where it is on the primary calendar."

Santorum, the first candidate scheduled here this month, is scheduled to speak Feb. 16 at the annual Oakland County Lincoln Day Dinner. The $75 event, also featuring Gov. Rick Snyder, starts at 7 p.m. in Novi's Suburban Collection Showplace. Seats can be reserved here.

"This should be our largest dinner in years," said county chairman Thienel, owner of . "Barack Obama is the best thing in the world to inspire Republicans."

The two Feb. 28 primaries come a week before a Super Tuesday bounty of 437 delegates get allocated in 10 states. That timing gives the last votes of February extra impact in the fluid contest.

Stakes in Michigan

The winner or winners will gain a sense of momentum, added credibility and a fund-raising edge. Moreover, Michigan's primary is the first in a Midwestern industrial state.   

To be nominated Aug. 29 at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, a candidate needs 1,144 delegates. Romney has 91, Santorum has 44, Gingrich gained 29 and Paul picked up eight so far.

At stake Feb. 28 in Michigan are 30 delegates, awarded proportionately based on primary vote shares. In contrast, Arizona's winner gets all of its 29 delegates that day.

A results-watching party organized by the Troy-Clawson Republican Forum begins at 8 p.m. primary night at restaurant in Troy.

Critical test

As the year began, "Michigan’s primary date was considered, by many, to be too late to be relevant," recalls election analyst Tim Kiska in a WWJ blog. That's because Romney was widely seen as the Republican candidate financially and politically.

Like Mitchell, Kiska says Romney's recent runner-up status in several states changes things. "All of a sudden, Michigan ... becomes crucial for Romney’s future," the Grosse Pointe Woods resident writes in his recent post. "Romney will need Michigan ... to prove that he’s got it, that he’s not a perennial second-place finisher, and that he can do well in a northern industrial Blue state – one that is up for grabs in November."

For his part, Mitchell – head of a research and public relations company in East Lansing and West Bloomfield – sees the former Massachusetts governor as a "favorite son" who should prevail here and "is on a path to win the nomination."

In the state's last Republican presidential primary, Romney earned 20 of the 30 delegates by receiving 39 percent of the 869,293 votes. (Runner-up John McCain later became the nominee.)

Romney's roots

Romney, whose father George was governor of Michigan from 1963-69, was born in Detroit and grew up in Bloomfield Hills. He remains "a Michigan guy" in many local Republicans' eyes, Mitchell believes, even though he moved away permanently after graduation in 1965.

"We all have friends and relatives who have left our state for jobs elsewhere," Mitchell explained, "but we still think of them as Michigan natives." He acknowledged that "Romney will appeal more to older voters because they remember his dad or his mom or his former sister-in-law, Ronna Romney. Romney will leverage his Michigan connections very strongly in the general election and it will be a positive for him."

Younger voters already are among "the strongest Ron Paul supporters, so if they don't support Romney it will be because of ideological reasons," adds the political consultant.

Romney speaks Feb. 24 at a Detroit Economic Club luncheon at 11:30 a.m. in Ford Field four days before the primary. Ticket details are here.

Need to know about Feb. 28 primary

  • When: 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
  • Where: Your local precinct site (check with your clerk's office if you are unsure)
  • Absentee ballot: Can be mailed on request by Feb. 25, or cast at your municipal building by 4 p.m. Feb. 27.
  • Party selection: , voters in this "closed primary" must declare in writing which party's ballot is wanted. (The Democratic primary is uncontested.) The choice remains on a public record for 22 months, but doesn’t apply to the general election in November.    
Michelle Dainus February 10, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Well said, Erin, I was about to post the same thing myself. I just do not understand how people in this area could even consider voting for Romney because of his remarks about the auto industry.
Marty Rosalik February 10, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Don: you hit the nail on the head. We pay for about 30,000 troops in South Korea. Last time I looked they were in pretty good shape. They have a huge industrial complex for all sorts of heavy industry. Their car companies are doing well and even better. We pick up the bill on their defense. We pay more in taxes to make their taxes lower. This in turn allows their industry to make products cheaper. It is time for them to stand on their own. I resent paying taxes for their defense. That in-turn lowers the cost of their products that compete with my products. So how about we bring those 30k troops home and deploy them on the southern border?
Jordan Genso February 11, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Jo Nielson, in regards to "both parties have moved more towards their extreme ends". Another commenter made a similar statement a couple weeks ago on a different article. I asked them to provide examples of policies that the Democratic Party supports now that are more liberal than what the Democrats in the 1980s and 1990s supported. That commenter ignored my comment; I hope you don't do the same. There is one issue for which I feel the Democrats have moved to the left (equality for the LGBT community), but otherwise, I can't think of any others. And there are several for which they have moved to the right (President Obama's health care reform proposal was much less liberal than President Clinton's- it was basically the same as the Republican alternative to President Clinton's in 1993). Last time, I provided around seven examples of the post-2008 Republicans being against policies they used to be in favor of (or even created themselves, like Cap & Trade), having moved to the extreme right. If you would like though, I could provide them again.
Jerry Grady February 11, 2012 at 04:16 PM
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46348348/ns/business-us_business/#.TzaUBbES1Qg Interesting Take on Tax Reform for Corporations.
Jerry Grady February 11, 2012 at 08:34 PM
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46313519/ns/business-personal_finance/#.TzbQFLES1Qg If this is true, This provides many facts, but more importantly keeps the opinions flying.

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