This next week, culminating in the February 28 primaries in Arizona and Michigan, could very well make or break Mitt Romney’s campaign—politically and even financially. The only feasible way he can sweep the contests, with Rick Santorum narrowly leading in Michigan and closing in on him fast in Arizona, is the same way Romney nearly won Iowa and did win Florida: Unleash colossal amounts of cash. This has largely been a Whack-a-Mole campaign: Whenever a conservative contender creeps out of the woodwork, Romney’s money machine obliterates him with multi-million-dollar attacks. His one truly impressive win so far came in Florida, where his campaign and super PAC spent more than $14 million bombarding the airwaves with negative ads and effectively stomped out Newt Gingrich’s second fledgling surge. Now the Romney treasure chest seeks to snuff out Santorum’s nascent legitimacy by deploying its full financial arsenal in Michigan—a state everyone thought the former Massachusetts governor had in the bag. But if it doesn’t work, the mole-whacking battery could soon run dangerously low. Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney super PAC, has 26 times more cash to burn than the Santorum-backing Red White and Blue Fund. But in January, Romney spent three times more than he raised. Unless the momentum moves back in Romney’s favor soon, the option of outspending his rivals into oblivion could evaporate. It would then be up to Romney to out-campaign Santorum—and despite his incomparable foliage-praising rhetoric, Romney has thus far proven himself utterly incapable of that.
So They Say
Daily Meme: Last-Chance Debate
- Dear John King: Don't mess up in Mesa.
- The debates have shaped the race …
- … but thank God they’re almost over.
- Newt needs a "Gingrich moment, such as an attack on the debate moderator that makes Republican voters squeal."
- For Romney, a stellar performance is a must.
- The candidates have to prove they are the most conservative and most electable. Either/or doesn't cut it anymore.
- Gingrich and Paul get one night to show they deserve to stay in the race.
What We're Writing
- On his new Prospect blog, Jamelle Bouie uncovers more reasons we shouldn’t be holding our breath for a contested GOP convention.
- Paul Waldman, on his new blog, writes about Romney’s unlikely wingman: Ron Paul.
What We're Reading
- Four years ago, just 6 percent of GOP primary ads were attacks; this year, it’s 50 percent.
- Ron Paul’s new ad calls Santorum a “fake” conservative.
- Super-backer: Sheldon Adelson says he might give Gingrich $100 million.
- Adelson and Obama join forces in hating Citizens United.
- Calvin Trillin: “Three Scenes Inspired By the Newt Campaign.”
- Forbes charts the impact of billionaires on the 2012 race.