Taking his message to the airwaves is Rick Santorum’s best chance to win Michigan. And as the state’s primary race heats up less than two weeks before voters head to the polls, the ad dollars are flowing.
The Red, White and Blue Fund — a pro-Santorum super PAC — is putting up $652,000 in Michigan, with the Santorum campaign spending $438,000. Romney’s campaign and his supporters, on the other hand, are spending twice as much — with $1.2 million from the campaign and $1 million from the pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, according to an NBC/Smart Media Group Delta analysis.
But the Santorum campaign says it isn’t trying to go dollar-for-dollar with Romney in his home state. “It’s not about going tit for tat with Romney on attacks,” Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley told TPM. “No one is going to be able to keep up with the negativity he’s been able to use.”
The Santorum campaign instead is hoping to woo voters the old fashioned way: shaking hands and making speeches. “That’s the key to Rick’s success,” Gidley said.
Whether that proves to be enough is unclear. Michigan State University political science professor Matt Grossman said the influx of super PAC spending “might not be enough on its own.” But if Santorum is able to get his message in front of voters, he could be competitive. And, of course, the message itself matters.
“Rick has a positive message and a vision for the country, that’s what we’re trying to get across,” Gidley said. And even if voters don’t agree with him, they appreciate that Santorum actually answers tough questions, Gidley added.
Romney has not played down expectations in Michigan like he did before Santorum swept Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado. He told reporters on Wednesday that a Michigan loss “won’t happen,” even though polls show Santorum with a comfortable lead. The Santorum camp, for its part, isn’t betting it all on a Michigan win.
“We don’t live or die by wins or losses, in polls or states,” Gidley said. “We’re not holding on to any idea that we’re going to win Michigan.” The polls have certainly been “very encouraging,” he said, but “it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out.”
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com