So, Mitt Romney won both the Arizona and Michigan Republican Presidential Primaries, after all (well-- Michigan... uh... sort of)!
Allow me to herewith present my take on what that which can be gleaned from the results of the voting this past Tuesday (28 February) really means:
1. Yes, Mitt Romney is still the "front runner"-- although, yes, battered and bruised: if not at least a bit bloodied (as the result of Michigan's voting)-- yet he remains well ahead of the rest of the Republican presidential hopefuls. Romney gained (so it seems, as of this typing) 45 of the possible 59 delegates "up for grabs" this past Tuesday, thereby putting more distance between himself and his GOP rivals. This website's "soft count" (which includes estimates from the just completed Wyoming caucuses as well) now has Romney with 162 delegates to Santorum's 65 (thus: Romney now leads Santorum by 97 in this category, compared to his lead of but 64 going into this past Tuesday's Primaries)...
don't like our "soft count"? Then take a look at our site's "hard count" (which tabulates Republican National Convention delegates already bound/pledged to presidential contenders): Romney has 118 of these to Santorum's mere 17- a lead of 101 over the former Pennsylvania Senator (as compared to 70 pre-Tuesday), putting aside the fact that Newt Gingrich is still ahead of Santorum right now with 29 bound/pledged National Convention delegates.
Further: there have now been 12 completed "first step" delegate selection events on the Republican side of the presidential nomination "season"- although, as should be clear from the foregoing, not all of these have bound or pledged National Convention delegates to presidential contenders per se- in different forms (Primaries [both binding and non-binding], Caucuses [with or without straw polls], etc.) and in different parts of the country, thereby mirroring the presidential preferences of various and sundry shades, factions and wings of today's Republican Party US...
in other words: we have a fair sampling of that Party as a whole- if only so far (with still quite a long way to go yet!)- to look at now. In these 12 events (in general chronological order: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Maine, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, Arizona and Wyoming), Romney has averaged 36 percent of support among the GOP rank-and-file; while Santorum has averaged 28 percent (with Gingrich averaging but 15 percent) amongst the Republican faithful...
this is not at all a bad showing for Senator Santorum, to be sure: but Governor Romney is still- at this point, going into 'Super Tuesday' next week- the proverbial "man to beat"!
2. No, Romney is not yet a sure bet to win the 2012 Republican presidential nomination-- despite what I just stated in my previous sentence.
Santorum's momentum is not something to sneeze at: in the last 6 of the 12 delegate selection events already cited, Santorum has averaged 40% support to 34% for Romney; but, for all the chortling of Santorum supporters (along with other 'anti-Romney' Republicans not necessarily sold on Santorum) that Michigan was "really" a tie, there is a reason you hear little- if any- mention from them of Arizona, where Santorum got fairly trounced...
yes, Romney does have problems with a significant segment of the Republican base but Santorum clearly has his own issues trying to gain support from a different, yet also significant, segment within the GOP: and this is the core reason as to why the Republican presidential nomination race has been so volatile and why victory for one candidate has- at least as of yet- not necessarily meant a big "hit" is being taken by the other.
3. Gingrich is now "odd man out" and could merely become the "fly in the ointment"-- depending on how well (or not) Gingrich does come 'Super Tuesday' next week, of course.
Think of it this way: let's say all four current top GOP presidential contenders go out for lunch together at some diner or chain family restaurant (I know, I know... just bear with me here!)-- after lunch, the table is graced with the "Grand Old Party" pie which has already been cut into 5 slices of, more or less, equal size. Mitt Romney gets the 2 slices with his own name on it, Ron Paul gets the single 'Libertarian' slice and Rick Santorum gets the remaining 2 slices labeled 'I'm not Romney'; Newt Gingrich decides not to order dessert but then grabs a fork from one of the other tables and ends up taking several bites out of 1 of Santorum's 2 slices... this is just about the situation the GOP presidential race is now in heading into 'Super Tuesday'!
The longer the two "I'm not Mitt Romney, but I'm also not Ron Paul" candidates- Gingrich and Santorum- pretty much split whatever vote there is out there voicing a conservative opposition to Mitt Romney's becoming the Party's presidential nominee, the better conditions are for Romney to, instead, eventually clinch that very nomination-- and sooner rather than later!
Keep these 3 "bullet points" in mind as we now look forward to Tuesday 6 March:
'Super Tuesday' is 'Super Tuesday' precisely because at least 391 National Convention delegates are to be bound to presidential contenders as a result of 9 of the 10 delegate selection events being held that day. Just how these delegates get "divvied up" between the presidential contenders will, obviously, go a long way towards determining just how much (or little) Mitt Romney's "front runner" status has been either tainted by Michigan or enhanced by Arizona.
The bulk of these delegates going to Romney well puts pay to any lingering optimism from the results of the Michigan battle among the 'anti-Romney' Republicans; meanwhile, Santorum does have a real chance to gain ground on (if not even pass, though this is not at all very likely-- at least this coming week) Romney in the "hard count" of pledged/bound National Convention delegates; Gingrich, meanwhile, is just treading water right now hoping 'Super Tuesday' is yet another "lifeboat"- as was his victory in South Carolina back on 21 January- happening by to rescue his presidential ambitions (and, in this regard, his failure to get on the Virginia ballot looms very large!)...
and then, of course, there's Ron Paul.