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Super Tuesday is here, and political pundits say that if Mitt Romney wins Ohio, the Republican primary race will be over. 

That’s a big “if” and of course, the former Massachusetts governor has not yet locked up the delegates he will need.

But a Romney victory over Rick Santorum would give him a moral boost, assuming it is by a large enough margin. There is no guarantee of that, however.

At the end of the day Monday, the race for Ohio’s 66 delegates still seemed to be a statistical tie. Romney and Santorum made six collective stops in Ohio yesterday. Santorum battled perceptions that Romney is more electable than he is; Romney aimed at President Obama’s policies. 

Our partner station ideastream and our friends at PBS Newshour will have plenty of political coverage. Washington Week host Gwen Ifill posted a list of five things to look out for in tonight’s results.

And, some people are already looking past Super Tuesday to the Illinois primary later this month. Check out what our partner WBEZ in Chicago has to say.

We’ll have results and analysis on Wednesday.


The Jetsons

In more than 100 years of manufacturing ingenuity in the Midwest, there have been very few limits. From steamships, to motor cars, to solar panels, people in the industrial Midwest can make almost anything.

So, where is my flying car? Seriously. I’ve been waiting for, like, ever.

Flying cars have been a fantasy for almost as long as there have been cars. Henry Ford reportedly tinkered on a plan. The first car to get regulatory approval for both air and land in the U.S. was in 1956.

Now, here comes news of the Terrafugia Transition, which will have its public debut at the New York Auto Show next month.

The Transition is built in Massachusetts, and the first one is scheduled to be delivered later this year. If you want to buy one, all you need is $279,000.

The Economist says the Transition is one of at least a dozen flying cars in development right now. The magazine says the new designs are all trying to take advantage of the “Lite-Sport” aircraft designation that was created by the Federal Aviation Administration several years ago.

But we’ve heard these promises before.

I, for one, wont’ believe in flying cars until I see one – parked in my driveway. Here in the Midwest.



With Super Tuesday primaries looming next week, the political world’s eyes are on Ohio, one of the richest prizes on the big day. 

(Okay, there are a lot of eyes on the Arnold Sports Festival, but he’s a Republican too, after all.)

On Friday, the latest poll from Quinnipiac University declared the Ohio primary too close to call between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Pennsylvania’s former Sen. Rick Santorum.

It showed Santorum with 35 percent of likely Republican voters, and Romney at 31 percent. On Monday, Santorum had a 36 percent to 29 percent lead, a day before the Michigan primary. About 34 percent of Ohioans surveyed said they could still change their minds

“At this point, the Buckeye State is too close to call and is clearly a two-man race between Sen. Rick Santorum and Gov. Mitt Romney,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“A third of the electorate say they still might change their mind. With five days until Super Tuesday, they certainly will be exposed to enough negative television ads to provide fodder for those who might want to switch – or switch off.” 

There’s also support for the two less-visible candidates. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had 17 percent, with 12 percent for Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

ABC News reported on a never-seen video that showed Romney in 2002, boasting about federal funds he had attracted for Massachusetts. Our friends at PBS NewsHour say the video has reignited debate over which candidate is the biggest Washington insider.

Candidates can’t focus all their efforts in Ohio as they could in Michigan, which received a 10-day dose of attention. That resulted in $7.6 million in advertising spending ahead of the state’s primary this week.

According to our partner Michigan Radio, Romney’s campaign spent $1.5 million, while a pro-Romney Super Pac spent nearly $2 million. Santorum spend just under $1 million, and a Super Pac spent over $1 million on his behalf.

Breaking down the numbers, Romney and his Super Pac spent about $8.45 for each vote the former Massachusetts governor received in the primary. Santorum and his Super Pac spent about $5.81 per primary vote in Michigan. Third place finisher Ron Paul spent a relatively frugal 48 cents per vote.

We’ll leave you for the weekend with this little tune that’s familiar to all Ohioans.

(It’s) Round on the end and “Hi” in the middle.
Tell me if you know.
Don’t you think that’s a cute little riddle
Round on the end and “Hi” in the middle
You can find it on the map if you look high and low.
The O’s are round, it’s high in the middle. O-H-I-O That’s the riddle!
Round on the end and “Hi” in the middle.

Over to you, Ohio. 

Mitt Romney’s narrow victory Tuesday night over Rick Santorum in the Michigan Republican primary now sets the stage for a repeat in the Buckeye State. And already, the situation is mirroring the one in Michigan.

A Quinnipiac University survey, published Monday, finds Santorum with a 7 percent lead over Romney in Ohio, the same lead he held two weeks ago. The Ohio Poll, by the University of Cincinnati, shows Santorum with an 11 percent lead.

Santorum led Romney by as much as 20 percent coming into the Michigan primary, too.

As in Michigan, a lot of people tell pollsters they may change their minds, which means lots of campaign appearances between now and next Tuesday.

Santorum already has gotten a jump on his Ohio campaigning. He squeezed in an appearance in Perrysburg on Tuesday, before traveling to Grand Rapids, Mich., for his election night event.

Compared with Michigan, Santorum may actually have more of an edge over Romney in Ohio. It borders Pennsylvania, where Santorum served as U.S. senator, making him more familiar to Ohioans than he was to Michiganians.

Ohio, which has 66 delegates, is the second biggest prize on Super Tuesday next to Georgia, with 77 delegates. But Newt Gingrich is likely to take his home state, and he has not actively campaigned in the Midwest, leaving Ohio as a Romney-Santorum battleground.

As in Michigan, there are essentially two blocks of voters for the candidates to go after: suburbanites around Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, and small town and rural residents along the I-75 corridor from Toledo to Dayton.

In his home state, Romney did best in the Detroit suburbs, while Santorum took conservative areas in southwest and western Michigan, as well as the Upper Peninsula. They will end up splitting the state’s 30 delegates, which are awarded based on votes in Congressional districts.

The Columbus Dispatch noted that the Ohio Poll shows Santorum with a solid grip on the people who said they would vote for him. Some 46 percent said they are “definitely’ behind the candidate.

“This gives the Santorum campaign the luxury of spending less time reassuring his base and more time attracting voters from other candidates and reaching out to undecided voters,” said Eric Rademacher, co-director of the Ohio Poll.  “For Romney, he must first strengthen his base and then move to attract additional support.”

Are you an Ohio voter? What’s on your mind for Super Tuesday — and who are you supporting?


Thanks for reading our updates on the Michigan primary race. We’ll be back on Wednesday with a look ahead to Ohio’s contest on Super Tuesday.

10:35 pm ET News organizations declare Romney the winner. It wasn’t the blow out that Romney might have wanted, but virtually all the major news organizations, including NPR, the New York Times, and the broadcast and cable networks, have called the Michigan primary for him.

With about 70 percent of votes in, Romney is leading Santorum by 41.6 percent to 37.3 percent. Since delegates are awarded on congressional districts, and the vote totals are not in, it’s not possible to divide them up yet. But both will get some.

CNN reports that Santorum called Romney before his speech to concede.

“Thank you, Michigan, what a win. Thanks, you guys,” Romney said at his campaign event. in Novi, Mich. “This is the place where I was born, this is the place that I was raised…I know that Michiganders in this room, we consider you all family.”

He added, “We didn’t win by a lot, but we won by enough, and that’s all that counts.”

10:15 pm ET. NBC calls it; Santorum speaks. NBC News becomes the first network to call the state for Romney. In Grand Rapids, an upbeat Santorum speaks to his followers. He thanks his supporters and says, “A month ago, they didn’t know who we were. They do now.”

He talks about his mother, who lived in Saginaw, and speaks of his college-educated wife. The comments are a contrast to Santorum’s dismissal of President Obama as a “snob” because he supports college education programs.

10:00 pm ET. Romney stays in front. Almost two-thirds of the votes are now in, and Romney remains in the lead, although the figures are shifting. Romney leads Santorum by 40.3 percent to 36 percent. There is no victory speech yet, but one will come if the cable news networks call the race for Romney.

What would a 4 to 5 percent lead mean for him? He has long been expected to win the state, so a victory is no surprise. For Santorum, a loss along those lines would be a missed opportunity to beat Romney in a state where he was an unknown — something he has to do in order to nab the GOP nomination.

But, there is a consolation prize, and a big one: delegates. Until now, Santorum’s victories have come in non-binding caucuses. In this instance, he would get his first delegates, while Romney would get delegates as well.

A Romney victory would be a relief to Gov. Rick Snyder. The governor endorsed Romney two weeks ago, although he did not do much campaigning for him.

9:30 pm ET. Romney has a narrow lead. With about 30 percent of Michigan’s votes counted, Romney leads Santorum by 41 percent to 38 percent.

Romney is ahead in Metropolitan Detroit, including Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw and Livingston counties. Santorum’s strength is coming in far southern Michigan, west Michigan (including Kent County, the home to Grand Rapids) and the counties of the Upper Peninsula.

That county-by-county tally is important. Michigan awards its delegates based on Congressional districts. So, Michigan’s 30 delegates are likely to be divided between the two candidates.

Ron Paul is not leading in any county, but he is picking up a solid 11.6 percent of the vote. Newt Gingrich, who did not campaign much in Michigan, has 7 percent. Read the rest of this entry »

The auto bailout has become a hot button in the Michigan Republican primary. Now, tell us: who should get the most credit?

Publicus Tacitus, the Roman senator, is given credit for coining the phrase, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.” He’d feel right at home during the Michigan Republican primary campaign.

Ford's Rouge plant, by Charles Sheeler

Over the past few weeks, candidates, their opponents and those who played a role have been debating just who should get credit for the auto industry bailout.

It’s a long-overdue discussion of what happened a little over three years ago, and the conversation shows just what a political hot button the situation still is for people in Michigan and the Midwest. Here’s a list of credit takers and how they make their cases.

Mitt Romney: In his now famous 2008 New York Times op-ed, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” Romney argued that the automakers should go through a “managed bankruptcy.” It was an inflammatory suggestion at the time, because automakers were just appealing to Congress for what they contended would be a “bridge loan” to help through a temporary crisis until the market got back on its feet.

In a sense, what Romney suggested happened, only probably not the way he envisioned it. Most likely, Romney meant a “pre-packaged” bankruptcy, in which the steps needed to restructure the companies would be agreed upon in advance. But, that leaves the question of who would have financed a Romney plan.

On Monday, financier Warren Buffett pointed out that banks were unwilling to provide lending so that the auto companies could restructure without federal help. Buffett, speaking on CNBC, said the bailout was one of the best things that happened to the American economy.

President Bush: After Republicans in the U.S. Senate decided in December 2008 not to support bailout legislation, the Bush administration provided an initial $13.4 billion in emergency assistance to General Motors and Chrysler. (By now, Ford had decided not to accept federal money.)

Without the assistance, one or both of the companies might have wound up in bankruptcy the following month, according to an internal memo by Lawrence Summers, an advisor to then President-Elect Obama. Earlier this month, President Bush said he was glad that he had provided the assistance because Detroit’s comeback was successful. “I’d do it again,” he told the National Automobile Dealers Association.

President Obama: The Obama administration did much of the heavy lifting on the bailout, creating an auto task force that oversaw the restructuring plan for GM and Chrysler. It negotiated for Fiat to take management control of Chrysler after its bankruptcy.

The administration provided debtor-in-possession financing so both could go through Chapter 11, as well as operating funds and loans to both car companies. United Auto Workers President Bob King, writing in the Detroit Free Press last week, gave the president full credit.

“I don’t have to tell you that cars made Detroit. But no matter what anyone tells you, it’s thanks to President Obama that Detroit is still making cars,” King said.

The UAW: But King also pats his own members on the back. Union members at GM and Chrysler granted concessions as part of the auto companies’ restructuring package. They agreed to a wage freeze, gave up cost-of-living allowances, and agreed to binding arbitration in case a deal wasn’t reached on their most recent contract.

As King put it, “We were willing to share the sacrifice to help our industry and this region survive.”

Coming up: we want your views on who gets the credit for the auto bailout.

Last month, Changing Gears’ Niala Boodhoo took a look at Wisconsin, a year after Republican Gov. Scott Walker won legislation that strips most public employees of their bargaining rights.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Now, The Atlantic Monthly is weighing in with its own take on Walker, and it had a tidbit that caught our eye. Staff writer Molly Ball asked Walker if he supported a Right to Work law, like the one that recently passed the Indiana legislature.

Walker replied, ”Not oppose it, it’s just not something we’re pursuing right now.” He went on, “It’s not something I’m pursuing right now, nor have any plan of pursuing.”

That sounds almost word for word what Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, says about a Right to Work law, which would prevent unions from collecting mandatory dues when employees decline to join.

Lawmakers in Michigan are proposing Right to Work legislation, but Snyder says it is a divisive issue,  adding it isn’t appropriate in Michigan in 2012. He says the issue could distract from his agenda of fixing the state’s economy.

Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich, whose efforts to eliminate public employee bargaining rights were overturned by voters, also has said Right to Work is not on his to-do list, although lawmakers have proposed the measure there, too.

Walker acknowledges he supported Right to Work when he was in the Wisconsin legislature. In the Atlantic interview, he goes on to say that “private-sector unions have been our partner in the economic revival we’ve had in this state. A bigger issue is the impact the public-sector unions have had on the taxpayers. And that’s essentially what we have in Wisconsin — right-to-work in the public sector.”

Walker may be trying to seem more moderate, since he is likely to face a recall election. His opponents collected more than 1 million signatures in an effort to put the matter on the ballot. Once the signatures are counted, an election could be held this spring,

It snowed overnight in Michigan, providing an icy backdrop as Republican presidential candidates kicked off the final weekend of campaigning before Tuesday’s primary.

Things got off to a quick start. United Auto Workers members gathered on a downtown Detroit parking garage rooftop Friday morning, staging a protest in advance of Mitt Romney’s speech to the Economic Club of Detroit.

Our friends at WXYZ-TV are broadcasting Romney’s speech live. The lunch is scheduled to begin at noon ET.

Romney is speaking at Ford Field, normally home to the Detroit Lions, as polls show he’s taken a slight lead over Pennsylvania’s former U.S. senator, Rick Santorum.

The Five Thirty Eight blog says Romney now has a 67 percent chance of beating Santorum on Tuesday. Its calculations show Romney taking 41.1 percent of the vote, with Santorum getting 36.4 percent. The next closest candidate is Ron Paul with 11.9 percent, followed by Newt Gingrich with 9.3 percent.

Neither Paul nor Gingrich has campaigned much in Michigan, where Romney and Santorum have blanketed the airwaves with ads.

But Paul is swinging through the state this weekend, when the three leaders have all added campaign appearances.

  • Along with his Econ Club speech, Romney is set to be in Lansing on Saturday for an Ingham County Republican breakfast and speak to the Michigan Prosperity Forum in Troy.
  • Santorum hits a fish fry on Friday in Walled Lake, and a rally at a Knights of Columbus hall in Lincoln Park. On Saturday, he speaks to a Tea Party rally in St. Clair Shores, and speaks to the prosperity forum.
  • Paul is headed for Michigan, where he has events planned in Hudsonville and Mount Pleasant and a final event on Monday East Lansing.

Stay with Changing Gears through the weekend for final primary coverage.

About midway through Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate in Mesa, Arizona, moderator John King of CNN turned to a topic that’s front and center in the Michigan primary: the auto bailout.

It momentarily turned into a free for all between Michigan’s native son, Mitt Romney, and Pennsylvania’s former U.S. senator, Rick Santorum, over what kind of help the federal government should have given the auto companies. You can read and see CNN’s coverage here.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama’s campaign jumped into the fray with a new television ad that began airing in Michigan, which holds its primary next Tuesday.

The ad, called Made in America, contends Republicans turned their back on the industry in 2008 and 2009, when the automakers went to Washington for federal assistance.

And, the campaign has a point. None of the Republican candidates supported the direct bailout of General Motors and Ford. And, Republicans in the Senate opposed legislation that would have provided Congressional assistance.

But Romney was the most vocal at the time, writing a now-famous op-ed in the New York Times in 2008 entitled, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” and his answers have received the most scrutiny.

The new Obama campaign ad references that op-ed, and declares, “Now, a new, restructured industry is back because of the grit and sacrifice of Michigan workers.” It concludes: “Don’t bet against the American worker.”

As he explained Wednesday night, he felt the car companies should have gone through a “managed bankruptcy” or a more-conventional bankruptcy that would have been financed by banks, not the Treasury Department.

Banks, however, received their own bailout, and were not inclined to lend to the car companies. Plus, conventional bankruptcies could have taken years, not the quick trips that GM and Chrysler experienced.

United Auto Workers members are preparing to demonstrate on Friday, when Romney makes his highest-profile appearance ahead of the primary, a speech to the Economic Club of Detroit at Ford Field.

I talked about the Michigan race with Judy Woodruff of PBS NewsHour on Wednesday night. You can watch our interview here.