Since the Republican presidential nomination race began, Mitt Romney’s campaign has been based upon three factors: electability, inevitability, and an insurmountable financial advantage. There are less than two weeks before the Michigan primary; if he wins there, he is very likely to win the nomination. If he fails, his shallow support among voters is likely to evaporate.

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Mitt has always had a number of substantial advantages here. Many older voters fondly remember his dad’s tenure as head of American Motors and then as Governor of the state. His opponents each have flaws that keep their own vote getting ability limited. He continues to have more money available than all of the other candidates combined. He has virtually all endorsements from Republican elites in the state, including the Governor, Rick Snyder. Everyone expects that if Mitt can hold on here, once March begins, and many states move to winner-take-all status, there is little doubt that he will eventually win the nomination, regardless of his personal support.

But Romney has problems here as well. He famously opposed the GM/Chrysler bailout. I assume that the auto bailout has become more popular among Michiganders, especially now that GM has announced record-breaking profits. His campaigns in previous states have seemed to concentrate on a slash and burn policy, with his Super Pac producing throngs of negative ads to keep the popularity of his opponents down. However, negative ads also limit the appeal of the candidate that they favor; if they are ineffective, they tend to be counter-productive. As well, my guess is that the ethos in Michigan is much different than in Southern states. There, bullying your opponent into submission is a normal state of life. Voters in Michigan may want to see a ‘fair’ fight.

Romney seems to have an analogous situation to that faced by Hillary Clinton in 2008. She contended that her nomination was inevitable; she had secured the financial support of a coterie of apostles that she and her husband had befriended over two decades. She had, early on, secured what appeared to be an insurmountable financial edge due to big contributions from her Wall Street friends and others. Then came South Carolina. Believing that her husband was the first Black President, as a 95 year old African-American poet had pronounced, she decided to let him lead her charge there. He proceeded to make a number of racially egregious comments; since the Democratic Party there has a high percentage of minority voters, this did not sit very well. This permitted Obama to continue the fight past Super Tuesday. Since Clinton arrogantly had believed that her coronation would occur in early March, she wasted little effort putting together campaign teams in later states. This permitted Obama to win a set of caucuses and primaries in March and April; to all extents (although the media refused to concede it), her race was kaput.

If Mitt loses Michigan to Santorum, there is a high likelihood that Rick’s momentum would carry forward. With Newt’s advantages in Southern states on Super Tuesday, Mitt’s campaign may reach an untimely demise. But if Romney wins in Michigan, he will have maintained his status as the inevitable nominee; the others may as well turn out the lights on their way out of the race. The party will be over.