Michigan, finally

If it hasn't been obvious for awhile (and it certainly didn't seem so four weeks ago today, when Romney smoked out Newt Gingrich, with Santorum barely even competing in the state), it should by now — Mitt Romney is an incredibly flawed candidate.

Critics will say so is Obama, and certainly gas prices, the overall economy, the international economy, Iran, and a host of other issues that we can't even fathom right now could certainly doom the president over the course of the next eight months.

But there have been improvements in the economy, and just in terms of temperament and maturity, Obama blows away all the Republican candidates, and looks better among independents.

That's because Rick Santorum can't seem to stop making himself the subject of derision when it comes to talking about God, abortion, homosexuality, and of late, college. For a while, conservatives were blaming the "liberal media" for the focus on the comments, but anyone who says that John F. Kennedy made them want to "throw up" because of his speech on church and state has got some serious issues.

Some Republicans worry that the tone of the race is only going to get worse as the campaign continues. That's one reason why Maine Governor Paul LePage fantasized aloud about another candidate getting into the race (which becomes more remote every day), saying the primary race had been "too messy," advocating that the party choose a "fresh face" in Tampa.

In terms of tonight, a wild card is that Rick Santorum has been targeting Democrats, who are eligible to switch parties at the polls and vote Republican in tonight's election in Michigan. Although Democrats would not seem to be a natural constituency for the socially conservative former Pennsylvania Senator, in fact a Santorum win would probably delight Obama supporters, as it will only make the race more chaotic (which is why Rush Limbaugh pushed for Republicans to do the same thing in primaries in Ohio and Texas in 2008 to support Hillary Clinton).

A Romney loss in one of his home states would not only be humiliating, but would also show that blasting your opponent with overwhelming force doesn't always pay off (reports say that Romney and his allies have outspent Santorum in ads by a 2:1 margin).

A fun fact to impress your friends tonight: The winner of the popular vote in the Michigan primary could end up losing the delegate count. That's because delegates will be apportioned by who wins the state's 14 congressional districts (each district is worth 2 delegates). The popular vote winner will take two delegates.

It's been three long weeks since the last GOP primaries, the elections that boosted Rick Santorum and created a new narrative about who will accept the Republican presidential nomination in Tampa in late August.

What's happened since then? Well, nothing much, delegate-wise, but there's a whole lot more anxiety among Republicans about dethroning Barack Obama this November.

The polls show Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney neck and neck in the polls going into tonight's huge Michigan primary (Arizona is considered a given for Romney). That's actually good for Romney, who a couple of weeks ago trailed by a large margin.

But whoever wins tonight will be a more damaged candidate going forward.

Although you can't take polls about November seriously in February, it's still worth noting that among the oh-so-valued independent voters, Obama now leads Romney by 12 percentage points, and leads both Santorum and Romney by nearly as large a margin among all voters. That's according to a Politico/George Washington University Battleground survey released yesterday.

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