What if Santorum wins Michigan?

Updated
 
What if Santorum wins Michigan?
What if Santorum wins Michigan?

We talked earlier about Rick Santorum positioning himself as the top GOP rival to Mitt Romney at the national level. That also increasingly appears to be the case in key states.

Public Policy Polling just released these results from the state of Michigan.

Rick Santorum’s taken a large lead in Michigan’s upcoming Republican primary. He’s at 39% to 24% for Mitt Romney, 12% for Ron Paul, and 11% for Newt Gingrich.

Santorum’s rise is attributable to two major factors: his own personal popularity (a stellar 67/23 favorability) and GOP voters increasingly souring on Gingrich. Santorum’s becoming something closer and closer to a consensus conservative candidate as Gingrich bleeds support.

Remember, this was believed to be one of Romney’s most likely wins. That “let Detroit go bankrupt” policy notwithstanding, he’s from Michigan and his father was governor of the state.

And yet, here we are.

Newt Gingrich’s support is collapsing, and in an interesting twist, Romney has to hope that the former Speaker sticks around for a while – PPP shows Santorum leading Romney by 21 points in Michigan if Gingrich weren’t in the race.

Santorum’s principal enemy at this point is time. The Michigan primary won’t be held for two more weeks, which gives Romney all kinds of time to take advantage of his considerable financial edge, doing what the former governor always does when he sees a threat: invest in attack ads until the threat is destroyed.

For now, however, Santorum not only has reason to feel some optimism, he also can credibly start telling the right this is a race between him and Romney – and if conservative activists and donors agree, the former senator’s candidacy will be that much more difficult to dismiss.

Romney is hearing whispers of doubt after a rough week. If he struggles in Michigan, those whispers will become roars.

What if Santorum wins Michigan?

Updated