(LANSING, Mich.) — Although Mitt Romney suffered a series of defeats at the hands of Rick Santorum in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri Tuesday night, a top Republican in Michigan sees the state as fertile ground for Romney.
“I think that the Romney campaign will be successful in Michigan,” the state’s Republican Party chairman, Bobby Schostak, told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday. “I don’t see a scenario where they’re not.”
Michigan holds its nominating contest on Feb. 28 — just under three weeks from now and on the same day as the Arizona primary.
In an interview on MSNBC Wednesday morning, Santorum called Michigan “a great place for us to plant our flag and talk about jobs and manufacturing.”
Chairman Schostak acknowledged that Santorum has “got a bit of momentum now,” but he noted Romney’s home-field advantage in the state where he grew up and where his father, George Romney, served as governor.
“Michigan is kind of home turf for the Romney family and so he’s got a bit of a uphill battle in that regard just to get himself situated and positioned,” Schostak said of Santorum, adding that only time would tell whether going three-for-three in Tuesday night’s contests would be “enough to overcome the Romney family legacy in Michigan.”
Thirty delegates are up for grabs in the state, and Schostak said all of the candidates — Romney, Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul — were poised to pick up a few.
“It’ll be a fight,” he said, “and I think Romney will do well.”
Schostak predicted that Romney would do best in population-rich southeast Michigan, where his name recognition is highest, but might face challenges in the state’s Upper Peninsula and certain rural areas.
Enthusiasm already appears to be building for the native son. As Schostak noted, a planned Romney speech to the Detroit Economic Club on Feb. 24 was moved from a hotel ballroom to Ford Field. The event, he said, “sold out in two hours.”
Turning to the general election, the party chairman said President Obama should not necessarily expect to receive a boost from his administration’s decision to bail out the automobile industry.
“Obama tries to take credit for the success of the automotive companies,” Schostak said. “Well, he had nothing to do with the styling or the engineering or the manufacturing” — features that he said have restored the auto companies to a “highly competitive” position.
Romney, on the other hand, could turn his opposition to the bailouts and support for a managed bankruptcy into an advantage, the Republican chairman said. He acknowledged that Romney’s GOP opponents, who were less outspoken on the issue, might seek to use it as a “talking point” against their rival.
“My sense is they just had less knowledge of it,” Schostak said. “Not being business backgrounds they would have less understanding of how the capital markets work in reorganization.”
The GOP chairman added that he was remaining “completely neutral” ahead of the Feb. 28 primary.
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