1. Mitt Romney wins when it matters.
Michigan wasn't pretty. In fact, it was downright Chris Martin's teeth.
He only won by 3% in his homestate, with a big financial edge, and against much weaker competition than 2008.
But he won, and you have to give him and his team credit for that. If Barack Obama wins in November, it won't be pretty, either. There's just going to be a lot of ugly happening, and GOP voters can take comfort with the fact that Romney will be more than willing to match Obama's dirtiness.
This is machine vs. machine. Mexican drug cartel vs. Mexican drug cartel. You might even call it a bloodsport, but if you're looking for something inspirational, try Frank Capra on Whip-Its before you look here.
2. Romney still struggles with the working class, but does it matter?
There's this huge temptation to coax red flags out of predominantly green ones to gin up drama. I know that, and I've probably fallen victim to it.
But Mitt really does need to start doing better with the working class, or as Bill-O would call them "The folks".
According to Fox News exit polls, he lost in Michigan with every income group under $100,000.
In other words, those making under $30K/year, $30K-$50K, and $50K-$100K all backed Santorum.
Romney promptly killed him with the richer set, but still -- he's going to have to get those peeps in fall, and he has to connect with him in some way other than saying "I'm not Barack Obama" (or does he? That's the big calculation he has to make before he makes more failures to pitch himself as an everyday Joe).
This is starting to look a bit like 2008. Everyone said McCain was the electable guy who could appeal to independents. Didn't work. Now everyone says the same about Romney. The counter is that it's really hard to see it working with Santorum or Newt at the top of the ticket.
Romney is still the most electable for fall, but that doesn't mean he's actually electable.
3. Santorum's box.
Romney might be struggling to connect with key demos, but Santorum is striking out more than a drunk Adam Dunn. He hasn't shown any ability to expand beyond his much smaller core.
Moderates and those considering themselves "somewhat conservative" went for Romney in droves in Michigan. In fact, the latter group picked Mitt by 18% over Santorum. That's huge. Santorum can't win the nomination and lose the moderate-to-somewhat conservative bloc. He just can't.
When Santorum starts breaking out of his niche markets (staunch social conservative and evangelicals), we can start talking.
The problem is he won't stop (talking, that is). He retracted his "vomit comment" on JFK, but even those sympathetic to him have to acknowledge how damaging it was. The comments reinforced concerns that he really is too radical.