Latest polls show that Mitt Romney may be in trouble in Michigan. He continues trailing Rick Santorum at the polls just more than a week to the primary, with 37 percent of GOP voters backing Santorum, while 32 percent back him out of 600 people surveyed.
The poll was conducted by the American Research Group between February 15 and February 16. CNN comments, however, that though the five points margin falls within sampling error, it is the same margin between the two candidates in a similar poll taken earlier in the week, indicating that it may reflect more than just sampling error. According to CNN, the Monday polls had returned a 33 percent advantage for Santorum over Romney at 27 percent.
What makes the situation of special concern for the Romney campaign is that Michigan is considered the Romney's home state. His father was once governor.
In the poll, Texan Rep. Ron Paul came in third place with 15 percent and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came fourth with 10 percent.
According to CNN, among Republican primary voters who will definitely vote in the primary (as against those who would likely), Santorum widens his margin over Romney with 38 to 30 percent. And among self-identified independents and Democrats, Santorum led with 40 percent to Romney's 27 percent.
Romney's Michigan campaign chairman, Bill Schuette, is however trying to play down the implications of the polls. He is predicting that Romney is poised to "do well" in the February 28 primary notwithstanding the recent poll results which give the Michigan primary to Santorum.
Detroit Free Press reports that Schuette, in a conference call on Wednesday morning, said: “We’re going to have a strong showing in Michigan, we’re going to do very well and we’re going to win this campaign."
Schuette was careful to say he did not mean he was predicting a win for Romney in Michigan, but simply that Romney was "going to do well" and eventually win the race for the Republican nomination.
But when asked what exactly he meant by Romney "doing well" in Michigan, and what would satisfy Romney campaign as "strong showing" in Michigan, he said: “I’ll tell you that Tuesday night."
He said, however, that he was expecting a vigorous campaign in Michigan over the next days in preparation for the February 28 primary. He said: “I think we’ll see a sharpening of the contrasts."
AP reports, however, that Santorum has ramped up his attacks on Romney's leadership at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Santorum said: "One of Mitt Romney’s greatest accomplishments, one of the things he talks about most is how he heroically showed up on the scene and bailed out and resolved the problems of the Salt Lake City Olympic Games. He heroically bailed out the Salt Lake City Olympic Games by heroically going to Congress and asking them for tens of millions of dollars to bail out the Salt Lake games — in an earmark, in an earmark for the Salt Lake Olympic games."
CBS News reports Santorum's voice was "heavy with disdain and sarcasm," as he criticized Romney. He asked the audience of about 200 people at a Tea Party rally: "Does the word hypocrisy come to mind?" Santorum also noted that Arizona Sen. John McCain once called the federal earmark for the Games a "boondoggle."
According to CNN, Romney's campaign has responded by admitting that congressional earmarks helped save the games but they note that Santorum also voted for the earmarks then. Romney's spokeswoman Andrea Saul, said: "Sometimes when you shoot from the hip, you end up shooting yourself in the foot. There is a pretty wide gulf between seeking money for post-9/11 security at the Olympics and seeking earmarks for polar bear exhibits at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Mitt Romney wants to ban earmarks, Senator Santorum wants more ‘Bridges to Nowhere.’ ”
Detroit Free Press reports Santorum is also working hard to portray Romney as a candidate conservatives cannot trust, pointing to his health care plan in Massachusetts as an example of how Romney is not "conservative enough." Santorum, according to Detroit Free Press, said Romney's health care plan in Massachusetts had many of the "hallmarks of the health care reform law enacted by Democrats in Congress."