Well the results are in and Mitt Romney can breathe a momentary sigh of relief. As expected, Romney took Arizona by a wide margin. He also managed to win Michigan with a little more breathing room than many were expecting. So, Romney lives to fight another day. He didn’t suffer the embarrassment of losing his “home” state he spent so dearly to try and win, and he’ll likely get a fundraising and momentum bump from the Michigan win since it wasn’t a given like the Arizona win. But other than Romney being able to fight on with the validity of his campaign relatively unquestioned, did the Michigan and Arizona wins really change anything? Not really.
There’s no question that a Santorum upset in Michigan would have made a mess of things for Romney. With his Super Tuesday prospects looking mixed, funding situation becoming much more like that of his opponents, and the hits he has taken to his image nationally, it’s even possible that Romney would have had some calling for him to step out of the race and allow for a stronger, less damaged candidate to take the lead. Luckily for Romney, and potentially the GOP’s stability for the rest of the primary season, that didn’t happen. One has to wonder if the Arizona debate had some effect in Michigan, particularly since Santorum’s edge started disappearing right after mediocre debate performance on his part. Only 35% of respondents in CNN’s exit polls indicated the debate affected their vote, and that segment saw a higher preference for Romney than Santorum, as well as a slight increase for Gingrich. Regardless of the methods or reasons though, Romney wins. Since the momentum of the race didn’t see a big shift in Michigan after all though, we’re still in the same murky waters we were before.
Romney's still the front runner, his campaign just isn't as well off financially as it used to be and his image issues haven't improved. Santorum is still loud and unpredictable and apparently doing a decent job appealing to the tea party and harder-line religious conservatives. Ron Paul is still trudging on and still has no immediate prospects for winning a state. Gingrich's apparent strategy to pretend February, outside of a debate, doesn't exist still has pundits and his supporters sitting on the sideline wondering if that gamble can possibly pay off.
And that’s pretty much it. No big changes happened or should be expected before Super Tuesday. There’s no reason for anyone to drop out or consider dropping out, and there’s no new momentum to give any particular candidate a big bump going into Super Tuesday. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. It’s far from over.