Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in Mesa, Ariz., Monday, Feb. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is wooing tea partyers in his home state of Michigan with a potentially risky strategy: blasting the auto industry bailout that many people credit with saving the state’s most vital industry.
The tactic seems designed to undermine Rick Santorum’s popularity with conservatives who dislike government intervention in business, even when the results appear defensible. It also reinforces Romney’s image as an experienced capitalist who understands the pain sometimes involved in making companies work.
Santorum’s fast rise in national polls has forced Romney to sharpen his criticisms of the former Pennsylvania senator. Santorum says his team will “plant our flag” in Michigan while also campaigning in other states.
A Romney loss in Michigan’s Feb. 28 primary would be hugely embarrassing, or worse, to his campaign. His team has promoted an aura of inevitability for months, but Romney has failed to persuade the party’s most conservative segments to embrace him.
Romney’s father was a top auto executive and three-term governor of Michigan, and Romney still holds big financial advantages over Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. Thus far, he has bought far more TV advertising time than they have.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signaled his plans to endorse Romney on Thursday.
And yet, when longtime Michigan political analyst Craig Ruff was asked if a Romney loss here is conceivable, he said: “I’m astounded, but yes.” Ruff worked for Republican Gov. William Milliken but now is an independent.
He said he was surprised by how vigorously Romney is criticizing the government rescue of General Motors and Chrysler in 2008-2009.
“Many, many Republicans have Login to read more