Romney, Santorum Showdown Expected in Michigan Tuesday

    Romney, Santorum Showdown Expected in Michigan Tuesday
    Romney, Santorum Showdown Expected in Michigan Tuesday

    The spotlight in the U.S. presidential campaign falls Tuesday on Arizona and Michigan. Both states are holding primaries, and Michigan in particular will be the site of a showdown between the two leading Republican contenders, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.  

    Public-opinion polls show Mitt Romney with a lead in Arizona, but a close race in Michigan between Romney and Rick Santorum, the state where Romney grew up and where his father served as governor.

    Santorum is making a strong bid in Michigan by basing his appeal to social conservative voters who favor home-schooling their children and who oppose abortion and gay marriage. “And I am not going to let the elites come up with phony ideology and phony ideas to rob you of your freedom and impose government control of your life," he said.

    But even some Republicans fear Santorum’s language has gotten strident of late, including his calling President Barack Obama a snob for wanting to make a college education available to all who want one.

    Santorum also sparked a controversy when he said that he does not believe the historical separation of religion and government in the United States should be absolute.

    A Santorum victory in Michigan would embarrass Romney on his home turf, but the polls show Romney has gained on Santorum in recent days.

    Romney was asked, on Fox News Sunday, how long the nomination battle will continue. “But how long the process goes on, I think it is hard to predict.  But I am convinced I am going to be the nominee and we will be willing to take however long it takes to get that job done," he said.

    Romney, Santorum, and former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich have all criticized President Obama for apologizing for last week’s Quran burning at a U.S. air base in Afghanistan.

    Romney has won victories in New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada and Maine and long has been the presumed frontrunner in the Republican race.

    But expert Henry Olsen of the American Enterprise Institute says Romney continues to have trouble winning over conservative factions in the Republican Party. “There is that base of people who are extremely conservative, extremely angry and who want someone who will both give a principled challenge to President Obama and a spirited one, and they are firmly against Romney," he said.

    Some Republicans worry that a long and divisive primary campaign will weaken the party’s eventual nominee and will provide the Obama campaign with lines of attack in the general election later this year.

    Former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, appearing on The Early Show on CBS, said there is a chance the battle for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination could go all the way to its August nominating convention in Tampa, Florida. “But the fact that there is an outside possibility, and I think that is the most that there is, an outside possibility, is unusual in American politics.  Usually the primary voters come to a conclusion and thus far they have not," he said.

    After the primaries in Arizona and Michigan, the four remaining Republican contenders will focus on the so-called Super Tuesday slate of 10 state contests on March 6th.

    Newt Gingrich and Texas Congressman Ron Paul have largely skipped the contests in Arizona and Michigan to focus on the Super Tuesday primaries and caucus votes.


    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

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