Romney's Motown Blues
Romano, Andrew, Newsweek
Byline: Andrew Romano
Swinging the Reagan Democrats.
Mitt Romney shouldn't have to worry about Michigan's upcoming Republican primary. He finished first in 2008. He's raised more money than the rest of the field combined. He's a native son, born in the Motor City to a popular auto executive turned two-term governor. And yet the latest polls show Romney trailing Rick Santorum, an underfunded interloper.
Blame the frosty homecoming on the Independent Voters Formerly Known as Reagan Democrats. Economically populist and socially conservative, these blue-collar, largely Catholic, largely unionized workers tend to swing. In 2008 they helped put Barack Obama over the top. In 2010 they returned to the GOP.
Now they seem to be recoiling from Romney. As talk of his paltry 14 percent tax rate and "I like to be able to fire people"-style gaffes came to dominate the airwaves in January, Mitt's unfavorable rating among working-class whites jumped 20 points nationwide. In Michigan, downscale voters were reminded of his reaction to the $80 billion bailout that revived the auto industry: a New York Times op-ed titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." Which may be why Santorum, a blue-collar Catholic, entered mid-February with a 20-point lead among Dems and independents planning to vote in the open primary.
In response, Romney has revived his 2008 playbook: a hometown-hero TV ad; a column claiming that "without [Obama's] intervention, things [in Detroit] would be better. …