So, two more states done and dusted.
And for everyone hoping for more funs and games, it was a bit of a disappointment, really.
Romney's win in Arizona was expected; the magnitude of that win (47% to Santorum's 27%) wasn't surprising either. As for Romney's win in Michigan - well, it sort of depends on when you were expecting, so to speak.
A month or more ago and you'd have thought Michigan a shoe-in for Romney. It's home turf, after all. How could he lose? A week ago, though, we were all up in arms shouting "Santorum! Santorum!", and Michigan was looking decidedly dicey.
In the end, Romney just squeaked by (by 41% to Santorum's 38%). There are probably three reasons for this. Firstly, the result was influenced by early voting (Santorum's argument that he actually won the majority of votes cast on February 28th itself may well be true). Secondly, money talks - and Romney (and his Super Pac) did a lot of talking. And thirdly, of course, there was Santorum himself, who, we now know, suffers from the same affliction so prevalent amongst the season's Republican candidates: sudden and overwhelming bouts of idiocy. J.F. Kennedy's speech on the separation of church and state, for example, seems to have made Santorum want to "throw up", and Santorum felt it was good idea to share that reaction with all of us. Way to go, Winchester Weasel!!
What the Michigan result, of course, can't be put down to is the Whirr/Clack Mechanism himself. Indeed, Romney seemed fairly eager to scupper his own chances again. Visions of nice shiny Cadillacs danced before his eyes as he addressed crowds in Detroit - and they were his, all his! (Well, his wife's, actually.) He doesn't really care for Nascar, but hey, his friends own Nascar teams. Isn't that great? And the trees, the trees! They're all the right height! No nasty little sort ones, and no awkward big stomping ones either! They're all in line and doing what I want them to do! Ha!
41% to 38% doesn't really tell us all that much for the future, though. It doesn't tell us who will win Super Tuesday, for example. It doesn't tell us who will win Ohio.
So, does that mean we don't know? No, that's not what it means. I think we do know, or, at the very least, that we can make a pretty good guess. Certainly when it comes to the nomination itself. But that's not because of Michigan. Rather, it's because of - drum roll, tada! - Arizona.
Well, think about it for a minute. Absolutely no-one in all the political pools of punditry seemed to have had any interest in Arizona at all. Romney was going to win it by a mile, so why bother? All that's true - and it's exactly the relevant point. Arizona was a far more important indicator of where this primary season is heading than Michigan, exactly because we all knew what the Arizona results would be. And we knew that, because Romney had no real competition there at all.
You see, none of the other candidates could afford to compete in Arizona. Or, if they could, they chose not to because it would have been a lost cause. But here's the thing: if they can't afford competing, they can't afford to win the nomination. And if they simply gave up, they don't believe they can win the nomination. It's really as simply as that.
Arizona, in other words, showed how the process will eventually end. Sure, Super Tuesday might be exciting, and who knows, perhaps Santorum will win Ohio, and Gingrich Georgia, and all that. But it doesn't really matter.
A while back, in Part 5 of this series, I said that, in all likelihood, it seemed that Romney had won the nomination by winning Florida. I still believe that to be the case. It is because of that win that we now have a lopsided contest, where Romney can only seriously be challenged in a number of states hand-picked by his remaining competitors, and where the Arizonas of the nation are his for the taking. And he's taking them.