Thumbtack – Polls close at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. EST in Michigan, and at 9 p.m. EST in Arizona. Expect the first results from the Michigan vote soon after the first polls close at 8 p.m. EST. In Arizona, no votes will be reported until after 10 p.m. EST.
Thumbtack – What the Republican candidates are up to today: Romney visits his Livonia headquarters at 9:15 and then goes dark until his primary night rally at 8 p.m. in Novi. Santorum stops at diners in Grandville and Kentwood this morning to get on morning newscasts. After hits on Laura Ingraham and Glenn Beck’s shows, he’ll rally in Perrysburg, Ohio at 11:30. He’ll come back for a 3 p.m. stop at his field office in Grand Rapids – to give fresh footage for western Michigan stations going into the evening news. His rally is at the Amway Grand Hotel in Grand Rapids. [He’ll be in Tennessee on Wednesday.] Gingrich holds a press conference/rally at 11 a.m. in Dalton, Georgia. Then he visits a Catholic school and holds an airport rally in Rome, Ga. He finishes the day with a rally at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, where he once taught. Ron Paul has an election night party at the Waterford in Springfield, Va. It starts at 6:30 p.m.
10:13 p.m. – NBC is projecting Romney as winner of Michigan.
9:45 p.m. – A good day for Obama – apart from the Michigan road-wreck: the Dow finishes over 13,000 and Snowe says she’s outta here.
9:44 p.m. – I can see why the networks are so cagey about the exit poll results. The early results show Romney kicking it in Wayne County and doing okay in Oakland. It looks close. Silver notes:
Those results, however, are probably somewhat behind the pace Romney would need to carry the whole state.
9:39 a.m. – Allahpundit sighs, even as Romney seems likely to hang on in Michigan:
[W]hat, if anything, could convince Romney to drop out? If he underperforms on Super Tuesday, would that do it? What about the primaries after that? I find myself wondering more and more why he’s so determined to win when he receives so much negative feedback at every turn. He has few passionate supporters and many passionate detractors; he has no big cause or grand issue that animates him; his victories are owed chiefly to carpet-bombing his rivals with negative ads rather than stirring up enthusiasm for his candidacy. It’s almost a test of wills with the base, or some sort of exceptionally complex organizational problem he’s determined to solve. Is Mitt so skillful a manager that he can propel a candidacy built on virtually nothing to the Republican nomination despite resolute opposition from activists?
9:29 p.m. – Bettors on Intrade now give Romney a 92% chance of winning in Michigan.
9:28 p.m. – First Read: “Despite the — warranted — focus on Michigan over Arizona, Romney will actually win more delegates out of Arizona than Michigan, no matter the outcome, because Michigan is winner-take-all by congressional district.”
8:28 p.m. – Polls are now closed across most of Michigan, although several voting districts will be open until 9 pm ET.
5:28 p.m. – Picture of the stage for Romney tonight.
Said Santorum at the time: “We want the activists of the party, the people who make up the backbone of the Republican Party to have a say in who our nominee is as opposed to a bunch of people who don’t even identify themselves as Republicans picking our nominee. I don’t like that. I believe that states should only allow Republicans to vote in Republican primaries.”
3:52 p.m. – Blumenthal analyzes the final Michigan numbers:
The former Pennsylvania senator has significantly outperformed his polling estimates in previous contests, particularly in the Iowa, Colorado and Minnesota caucuses and the non-binding Missouri caucuses. But those contests featured exceptionally low turnouts, allowing Santorum’s energized evangelical Christian base to have an outsized and unexpected impact.
3:48 p.m. – “Turn-out in today’s presidential primary election looks to be about the same or less than it was four years ago,” the Detroit Free Press reports.
2:01 p.m. – The latest Mitchell Research/Rosetta Stone poll in Michigan finds Mitt Romney edging back into the lead over Rick Santorum, 37% to 36%, with Newt Gingrich at 9% and Ron Paul at 9%.
1:52 p.m. – Filmmaker and Michigan native Michael Moore told Rachel Maddow that he’s encouraging Democrats to vote in today’s Republican presidential primary. Said Moore: “A lot of my Democratic friends are going to vote for Santorum tomorrow in something they are calling, Operation Hilarity. We do have a good sense of humor in the state of Michigan.”
1:51 p.m. – Mitt Romney accused Rick Santorum of trying to “kidnap our primary process” by getting Democrats to influence the very tight Michigan GOP primary race, National Journal reports.
10:38 a.m. – What is Santorum wins Michigan? GOP strategist Matthew Dowd to George Stephanopoulos:
“If Rick Santorum wins tonight it’s the equivalent of a 9.0 on a Richter scale. I mean it is going to shake Washington, it’s going to shake Republican establishment it’s just going to shake things to their very core. And I think what you’re going to see are the conversations that have been going on behind quiet doors saying we need another candidate in this race.”
10:36 a.m. – Don’t expect an early night tonight: “One word of warning: factors like early voting, crossover voting and the relatively large amount of demographic diversity within Michigan will make it tricky to call the state based on exit poll results and the first few precincts that report. For instance, if early and absentee results are reported before those cast on Election Day, as is common in some states, Mr. Romney could initially emerge with a lead that proved ephemeral. I generally take the view that the news networks are too quick to call a race — shouldn’t have we learned something from Florida in 2000 or Iowa this year? — but there is reason to be especially cautious here.”
9:37 a.m. – First Read: “Tonight will largely decide if Romney limps to the nomination or if all hell breaks loose inside the GOP. There’s no overstating the consequences of a Romney loss tonight: There won’t just be handwringing by the establishment, but there will be financial and staffing consequences, too.”
9:37 a.m. – A top Republican strategist unaligned with a presidential campaign tells The Note that no matter what happens in Michigan today, “Romney will have to battle weakness concerns rest of campaign.” Via The Political Wire.
9:23 a.m. – David Letterman: “Rick Santorum doesn’t believe in separation of church and state. But he does believe in separation of sweaters and sleeves.”
9:21 a.m. – The New York Times reached out to local experts to talk about the four political regions of the state: Detroit Area, Southwest/Grand Rapids, University Belt and Upper Peninsula/North Central. Good read for those who’ve never studied the Wolverine State.
9:16 a.m. – DNC memo: Even two victories will come at a cost for Romney: “Mitt Romney may pick up two victories on Tuesday night, but his out-of-touch positions and pandering to the right wing are causing him to pay dearly among independent, moderate and blue-collar voters who Romney cannot afford to lose in the general election,” Democratic National Committee communications director Brad Woodhouse writes in a memo for interested parties.
9:15 a.m. – The primary is “more than a test of Mitt Romney’s ability to win his native state,” Janet Hook and Neil King say. “It is a test of a central thesis of his campaign: He has the best chance of beating President Barack Obama. The results will show whether Mr. Romney-the longtime GOP front-runner now locked in a close race nationally with former Sen. Rick Santorum-can win the blue-collar voters who are a pivotal bloc in the Midwest, where parties win or lose presidential elections.”
8:33 a.m. – “State election officials expect between 15 percent and 20 percent of the state’s registered voters to cast ballots,” per the Detroit News. “About 21 percent of the state’s registered voters participated in Michigan’s 2008 presidential primary.”
7:50 a.m. – @fivethirtyeight Michigan forecast: Santorum 37.6, Romney 37.6.
7:28 a.m. – The GOP primary isn’t like Obama vs. Clinton because Democrats were deciding which historic nominee excited them most. Republicans can’t decide who depresses them least.
7:14 a.m. – Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign “is actively seeking the support of Democrats in Tuesday’s Michigan primary, running a robocall that sounds oddly like one that would be run by an organized labor group,” the Washington Post reports.
6:54 a.m. – PPP’s final Michigan poll, which was released late last night, finds Santorum ahead:
Much has been made of Democratic efforts to turn out the vote for Santorum and we see evidence that’s actually happening. Romney leads with actual Republican voters, 43-38. But Santorum’s up 47-10 with Democratic voters, and even though they’re only 8% of the likely electorate that’s enough to put him over the top. The big question now is whether those folks will actually bother to show up and vote tomorrow.
6:51 a.m. – Nate Silver examines Michigan’s delegate math: Twenty-eight of the 30 delegates in Michigan’s Republican primary will be awarded, two at a time, to the winner in each of the state’s 14 Congressional districts; only two will go to the candidate who takes the most votes statewide
8:34 p.m. – Republican opposition to the auto bailout will cost the party in November:
If Romney wins tomorrow, he’ll stand up there all smiles and talk again about his great love for Michigan and its fine people and its perfect trees and its cavernous and empty football stadiums. Don’t be fooled. He lost Michigan this past week, and he richly deserved to. And he didn’t lose it because of some campaign-trail gaffe. He lost it on policy—his, and his party’s.
6:39 p.m. – a Public Policy Polling survey in the field tonight is already picking up on “encouraging things for Santorum.”
6:39 p.m. – Harry Enten notes that three Michigan polls from last Thursday found Mitt Romney leading Rick Santorum by an average of 5.7 points. However, Romney’s average lead in polls taken over the weekend is down to just 1 point.
6:35 p.m. – The Santorum campaign is confirming that it is behind the robocalls urging Michigan Democrats to stick it to Mitt by voting for Rick.
6:16 p.m. – Kos is encouraging Democrats to vote for Santorum:
This race is obviously so close that a few thousand votes could make the entire difference. Either Romney wins, and takes a big step toward sewing up the nomination sooner rather than later, or Santorum wins, and the GOP nomination contest remains in chaos, and indefinitely so. It’s clear that Democrats and the Obama campaign prefer the latter option, otherwise they wouldn’t be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars hitting Romney in advance of tomorrow’s primary.
6:15 p.m. – John Cassidy is now betting on a Santorum win.
2:34 p.m. – Steve Kornacki: “The familiar Romney campaign formula — wait for conservative rival to emerge, beat back conservative rival with attack ads and strong debate performance, prevail in do-or-die primary test, wait for next conservative rival to emerge — may be in the process of repeating itself in Michigan. But the final polling in advance of tomorrow’s primary contains some serious hints of trouble for Romney.”
2:15 p.m. – Nate Silver‘s latest forecast shows Romney still has the advantage in the Michigan GOP primary tomorrow “but it is more tenuous than the one we released overnight. The model gives him a 64 percent chance of winning the state, down from 77 percent in the previous forecast.” The reason? Five new polls are out today with three showing Romney in the lead and two putting Santorum ahead.
1:33 p.m. – “Regardless of the outcome Tuesday in Michigan, Mitt Romney has already lost something big,” Rick Klein observes.
“Romney can solidify his claim on the Republican nomination with a victory in his native state. But what he can’t claim back is the ability to excite and perhaps simply unify the party behind his bid — critical shortcomings that are likely to haunt his bid for the presidency for as long as it lasts.”
1:30 p.m. – Massimo Calabresi argues that Rick Santorum’s declining poll numbers and lost momentum are a result of his gloomy message on the campaign trail:
“At first Santorum’s moral doom-saying just sounds like a slightly wacky play to the extreme wing of the GOP… But eventually it becomes clear that Santorum believes America’s lax morals are leading to that kind of future. First you teach teenagers about contraception; the next thing you know you are voting in favor of warehouses of fetuses, grown for the benefit of mankind… On paper, Santorum might be a viable alternative to Romney. In a series of difficult Senate terms, Santorum was more successful than most in reaching across the aisle even as he rose in the GOP hierarchy. But Santorum sees a looming moral apocalypse, abetted by what are now mainstream positions in America. That’s not a message that’s going to win, even in a GOP primary.”
10:42 a.m. – “I’m not going to go armchair quarterback it. I think there are alternative scenarios that could have worked also, but the point is, is that it’s history, and the important part is it was successful, we’re moving along, creating jobs.”
— Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), quoted by The Hill, defending President Obama’s bailout of the U.S. auto industry. The entire Republican presidential field has come out against the bailout.
10:31 a.m. – Santorum’s image has taken a big hit over the last week in the state. His net favorability has dropped 15 points … The debate Wednesday night may have damaged his cause. 51% of likely voters report having watched it and he’s actually in 3rd place with those folks at 21%, behind Romney’s 43% and Gingrich’s 23%. Santorum may also have misstepped by talking too much about social issues in the last few weeks. 68% of Arizona voters say economic issues are their top concern … We had been planning to do a 2 night Arizona tracking poll but with the numbers this lopsided we’re not going to bother.
10:15 a.m. – Michigan fight has class war overtones: Santorum pitches for workers’ votes; Romney defends his millions,” by Paul West in Troy: “On the eve of the unlikeliest showdown of a dumbfounding campaign year, the bitter Republican primary battle in Michigan has turned into an all-out class war. Rick Santorum, flaunting the fieriest populism in years by a GOP presidential contender, is waging a determined challenge to Mitt Romney, heir to a Michigan political dynasty. Romney had once been expected to cruise to victory in the state his father governed and that he won four years ago. … In the first industrial-state primary of 2012, [Santorum] has cast himself as a fighter for working people against the ‘elites in society who think that they can manage your life better than you can.'”
10:10 a.m. – Michigan primary vote could be GOP game changer: Romney, Santorum crisscross state as gap between rivals closes in poll by Marisa Schultz, Jim Katzenstein and Kim Kozlowski: “After polls a few weeks ago showed Santorum with a comfortable lead over Romney in the state, the gap appears to have closed with just a few percentage points dividing the candidates. … Greg McNeilly, a former Michigan Republican Party director, expressed a more cautious view. ‘There is no doubt that if he loses Michigan, perception-wise, the wheels come off the wagon,’ said McNeely, who is unaffiliated with any White House campaign. ‘Can he come back? Absolutely. But it destroys the inevitability perception that has been built around the campaign.'”