It has been a bad week for Mitt Romney. He did win both the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll and the Maine Caucus over the weekend. But neither of those results matter much. The winner of the CPAC straw poll is arguably determined by who can afford to pay registration fees for their supporters. The Maine Caucus was a non-binding “beauty contest” with no delegates at stake. And Romney narrowly beat Ron Paul in the caucus only after the state party decided not to count a number of key districts that were slow in reporting.
Meanwhile, Romney has fallen behind Rick Santorum in the polls in Michigan, where Romney was born and where his father was governor. A loss for Romney in Michigan would not just be embarrassing, but it would also call into question his ability to win the Midwest in the general election. Romney has sought to appeal to Michigan voters in a Detroit News op-ed piece calling Obama’s bailout of the auto industry “crony capitalism on grand scale.” The problem is that polls have found that a majority of Michigan Republicans actually approve of the bailout. Nor does it help Romney's case that GM recently announced that it earned record profits last year and will distribute $7,000 profit-sharing checks to almost 50,000 employees. Michigan voters will probably remember that four years ago Romney—whose chief selling point is his experience in corporate management—wrote that if Obama didn’t let the automobile manufacturers go bankrupt, “you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.”
Traders at the political futures market Intrade now give Romney a 71% of winning the nomination. With Rick Santorum's chances at just 18%, that still makes Romney by far the favorite, but his chances are still down nine points from last week. Intrade meanwhile gives Obama about a 60% chance of winning the general election. In the New York Times Magazine, Nate Silver agrees, arguing that improving economic fundamentals now make Obama the favorite no matter who runs against him.
Political Futures Markets
Chance President Obama will win reelection: 59.8% (Intrade)
Chance Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination: 70.9% (Intrade)
Chance that Republicans will win control of the Senate: 75.0% (Intrade)
Chance that Republicans will maintain control of the House: 67.1% (Intrade)
President Obama’s approval rating: 47.4% (Pollster)
Mitt Romney’s favorable rating: 30.8% (Pollster)
Democratic advantage on a generic congressional ballot: 0.7% (Real Clear Politics)
“If Mr. Romney is unable to find his base voters in Michigan—and get them to the polls—it becomes harder to see how he finds the building blocks for a national majority."—Nate Silver
Mitt Romney image from Gage Skidmore