If Mitt Romney loses Michigan tonight — and the polls say that’s possible — you’re gonna see some stuff happen. The Republican Party is gonna look like the scene in “Titanic” when people finally begin to understand: This unsinkable sucker could really go down.
Such a defeat would not end Romney’s campaign — he has too many resources and too much organization to simply sink beneath the waters. But a loss in his native state would confirm to many of his fellow Republicans that an alternative must be found, and quickly. For Romney, the setback would be significant because it would damage the single most important asset that he possesses, which is credibility. Mr. Inevitable would look more and more like Mr. Inevitable Loser.
But what alternatives do the Republicans have? Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are far more problematic than Romney. I’m beginning to hear strange noises out of Florida, as if Jeb Bush were starting to stir a bit, but that’s still a longshot. On the other hand, if Romney loses Michigan, those noises may increase in volume pretty quickly.
Truthfully, though, it’s still hard to envision the mechanism by which a late entry seizes control of the race. Those who have been campaigning all along aren’t going to meekly set aside their ambitions and allow some white knight to ride in and seize the prize.
And should Romney win in Michigan? Victory won’t do a lot for him, because it’s a state that he’s supposed to win pretty handily, against a set of opponents whom he ought to thrash. In college basketball terms, you don’t get many RPI points for beating weak opponents on your home court. A Romney win in Michigan, twinned with an expected win in Arizona, would merely extend the party’s current unsettled state of affairs.
– Jay Bookman