Today voters in Michigan and Arizona go to the polls for the Republican presidential primary. Arizona is a closed primary, meaning only registered Republicans can vote, and Mitt Romney has a comfortable lead there. Michigan, however, is an open primary, which means Democrats and Independents can vote as well as Republicans, which could cause chaos. Huge numbers of Democrats probably won't vote, but a few may, and in a tight race, they could have an impact. It's the conventional wisdom that if Romney can't win his home state, the doors will blow off the race, all Hades will break loose, and establishment Republicans will try to convince another candidate to enter the race.
That's a major overreaction. With Democrats poised to cause mischief in Michigan, anything could happen. If Romney loses there, yes the race will be upended, but it won't spell the end of his candidacy. And if he wins despite the Democrat mischief, then he'll have a stronger story to tell going forward into Super Tuesday. If Rick Santorum wins in Michigan, he'll have renewed momentum, but he'll also face a tall order going into next week's contests. Newt Gingrich doesn't expect to win either primary today, but a strong showing in either state could reposition him for Super Tuesday, which has a number of Southern contests in which he could do well. Ron Paul is hanging in with his sights set on influencing the party platform at the convention.
So, here we are, on the verge of March, and the GOP field is still a hot mess. But that's OK: hard-fought primaries make the ultimate nominee a stronger, tougher, more well-prepared and focused candidate. You've got to be able to take incoming from the other side if you're going to have any chance of surviving the incoming from the other side.
Michigan and Arizona: the deck is in your hands today. We're all watching to see how you shuffle and deal. You could essentially end the race today. Or not.