Next up on the calendar for the newly altered Republican campaign are Michigan and Arizona, sites of Feb. 28 presidential primaries. That means more political ads, more local media coverage and Metro Detroit candidate appearances.
Rick Santorum, freshly energized by three wins Tuesday, flies in next week for a Novi fund-raising dinner. Mitt Romney speaks at Ford Field in Detroit on Feb. 24 and surely will attend other events in the state where he grew up.
"We're hoping to do something with Romney here in Oakland," said county party chairman Jim Thienel, a Royal Oak business owner. "We would be thrilled to do a fund-raising dinner." He suggested that last week to David Fischer, a state campaign finance co-chairman, Thienel told Patch on Tuesday.
Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, the other two active candidates, haven't yet announced when they'll campaign here.
Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, won the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses and a nonbinding primary in Missouri on Tuesday – earning national headlines that say "upset," "stunning success" and "bounces back."
Because of that and Gingrich's win in South Carolina last month, "Michigan will play a bigger role in the selection of the nominee," said veteran political strategist Steve Mitchell of West Bloomfield. "Its importance comes because of where it is on the primary calendar."
Santorum, the first candidate scheduled here this month, is scheduled to speak Feb. 16 at the annual Oakland County Lincoln Day Dinner. The $75 event, also featuring Gov. Rick Snyder, starts at 7 p.m. in Novi's Suburban Collection Showplace. Seats can be reserved here.
"This should be our largest dinner in years," said county chairman Thienel, owner of . "Barack Obama is the best thing in the world to inspire Republicans."
The two Feb. 28 primaries come a week before a Super Tuesday bounty of 437 delegates get allocated in 10 states. That timing gives the last votes of February extra impact in the fluid contest.
Stakes in Michigan
The winner or winners will gain a sense of momentum, added credibility and a fund-raising edge. Moreover, Michigan's primary is the first in a Midwestern industrial state.
To be nominated Aug. 29 at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, a candidate needs 1,144 delegates. Romney has 91, Santorum has 44, Gingrich gained 29 and Paul picked up eight so far.
At stake Feb. 28 in Michigan are 30 delegates, awarded proportionately based on primary vote shares. In contrast, Arizona's winner gets all of its 29 delegates that day.
A results-watching party organized by the Troy-Clawson Republican Forum begins at 8 p.m. primary night at restaurant in Troy.
As the year began, "Michigan’s primary date was considered, by many, to be too late to be relevant," recalls election analyst Tim Kiska in a WWJ blog. That's because Romney was widely seen as the Republican candidate financially and politically.
Like Mitchell, Kiska says Romney's recent runner-up status in several states changes things. "All of a sudden, Michigan ... becomes crucial for Romney’s future," the Grosse Pointe Woods resident writes in his recent post. "Romney will need Michigan ... to prove that he’s got it, that he’s not a perennial second-place finisher, and that he can do well in a northern industrial Blue state – one that is up for grabs in November."
For his part, Mitchell – head of a research and public relations company in East Lansing and West Bloomfield – sees the former Massachusetts governor as a "favorite son" who should prevail here and "is on a path to win the nomination."
In the state's last Republican presidential primary, Romney earned 20 of the 30 delegates by receiving 39 percent of the 869,293 votes. (Runner-up John McCain later became the nominee.)
Romney, whose father George was governor of Michigan from 1963-69, was born in Detroit and grew up in Bloomfield Hills. He remains "a Michigan guy" in many local Republicans' eyes, Mitchell believes, even though he moved away permanently after graduation in 1965.
"We all have friends and relatives who have left our state for jobs elsewhere," Mitchell explained, "but we still think of them as Michigan natives." He acknowledged that "Romney will appeal more to older voters because they remember his dad or his mom or his former sister-in-law, Ronna Romney. Romney will leverage his Michigan connections very strongly in the general election and it will be a positive for him."
Younger voters already are among "the strongest Ron Paul supporters, so if they don't support Romney it will be because of ideological reasons," adds the political consultant.
Romney speaks Feb. 24 at a Detroit Economic Club luncheon at 11:30 a.m. in Ford Field four days before the primary. Ticket details are here.
Need to know about Feb. 28 primary
- When: 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
- Where: Your local precinct site (check with your clerk's office if you are unsure)
- Absentee ballot: Can be mailed on request by Feb. 25, or cast at your municipal building by 4 p.m. Feb. 27.
- Party selection: , voters in this "closed primary" must declare in writing which party's ballot is wanted. (The Democratic primary is uncontested.) The choice remains on a public record for 22 months, but doesn’t apply to the general election in November.