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Arizona and Michigan hold their primaries next Tuesday, February 28. Here is a quick look at the polls in those states. Mitt Romney has a very modest lead in Arizona, with Rick Santorum as the strongest challenger. Just last week the story was that Romney faced big challenges in Michigan and Arizona, and that it was Newt Gingrich who was focusing on Arizona. Now? Well, I'm sure Gingrich will let us know that he had no such intentions of going after the state that has 29 winner-take-all delegates, and it was all just media tripe.
The delegate count currently stands at-
(These numbers can change depending on how you count superdelegates and the non-binding caucus states. Today I am using the CNN delegate counter because it seems most logical. The numbers do change a tiny bit, putting Gingrich 1 vote ahead of Santorum, if you use the Republican Party Scorecard.)
Arizona's 29 winner-take-all votes could make a massive difference in Santorum's ability to go forward. But can Santorum really beat Romney in the very Mormon state? To get an idea of just how many Mormons really are in Arizona, take a look at Slate.com's Mormon Population Map. I normally get angry when people suggest that all Mormons vote the same and vote for Romney just because he is Mormon. And I still do take offense at that remark. We're not lemmings. However, I don't think many Mormons will vote for Santorum because of his extremist views that go beyond what most socially conservative Mormons believe in. In my opinion, it isn't that they will "vote Mormon" as much as it is they won't "vote Santorum."
Now, on to Michigan, Romney's native state.
Santorum has the lead there, but again, only a modest lead. It isn't strong enough to say he's got a foothold there. With another major debate going down on Wednesday (really, CNN? Another one?) things are definitely still up for grabs in both states.
Nonetheless, Gingrich (who let's remember is losing 35 to 106) is calling for Romney to step down if he can't win his home state. Insert Charlie Brown "good grief" here.
Michigan is a proportional state with 30 delegates. If things were to divide up the way the polls show right now, it still wouldn't put Santorum anywhere near within striking distance of Romney. They would both walk away with somewhere between 9-12 delegates each.
Meanwhile, the national GOP polls still look like a scary mountain range. Too many peaks, valleys, avalanches, and long roads up. This week Santorum's brown line is on the vertical ascent, and Gingrich's green line is headed for the avalanche.And Romney is still riding around a few knobs and hills, but he hasn't fallen off a cliff yet. Ron Paul is still just Ron Paul.
We'll revisit the national polls after AZ/MI next week.