Polls in Michigan a day before that state’s Republican primary show Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in a very tight race. Both men have been intensely battling for a win in Michigan. For Romney, Michigan’s primary is an opportunity to regain what he hopes will be the clear and closing path to the nomination. A win in Michigan is also crucial to Romney in order to avoid an embarrassing defeat in the state of his birth and youth, which is frequently–though misguidingly–described as his “home state.” For Santorum, Michigan represents a chance to seize on the momentum
that began with his victories in Minnesota and Colorado.
On Saturday Santorum was speaking to an audience in the Detroit suburb of Troy, when he cathartically unloaded on President Obama. “President Obama wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob! There are good, decent men and women who work hard every day and put their skills to the test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor.” Santorum soon added, “That’s why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image.”
Santorum has been widely criticized for the comments, particularly for his sharp and insulting use of the word, “snob” and the notion that encouraging people to attend college makes one a snob. However, all the criticism I’ve seen and read have come from the kinds of people who would not be voting for Santroum on Saturday anyway; reporters and commentators who view genuine candor as a gaffe, Obama supporters, and those prominent figures who back Romney in astoundingly greater figures than those who have endorsed Santorum.
What struck me was the reaction in the room–stirring laughter, heads nodding in enthusiastic approval, and an energy drawing power from barely submerged hostility. Santorum was channeling the anger and resentment that has served as the oxygen for much of the GOP for years, particularly since President Obama was elected. Santorum can convey this anger and resentment far better than Romney can, because it seems he really feels it and means it. And I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow night, we learn that so too do a plurality of Republicans in Michigan.