There is a gap in the programme of Republican primaries starting from now. The next elections won't take place until two weeks tomorrow: at that point, Arizona and Michigan hold full primaries where a total of 59 delegates will be decided.
Rick Santorum has to win at least one in order to maintain his momentum and, crucially, to add to his delegate totals. Don't forget, in the four nominating contests that he has won so far not a single delegate has been decided.
Given that he is out-spent and out-organised by the huge Mitt Romney machine, the triple-state victor of last Tuesday has decided to focus all his energy on one state. It's Michigan, where Romney's father was once governor.
The latest state polling suggests that he is in with a shout but fifteen days is a very long time in a contest like this. Newt Gingrich came out of his South Carolina victory in mid-January with poll leads of up to 9% for the next state in line, which was Florida. But on election day Romney won by a margin of 14.5% after spending millions of dollars on anti-Newt negative advertising.
The signs are that this will be the frontrunner's strategy in Michigan, with Santorum being the target. The big question is whether it will have the same impact.
See below for MUST SEE YOUTUBES, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich at CPAC This is far from certain because all the evidence is that negative messages have to chime with voters if they are to achieve their purpose. If they are too nasty they can rebound on those funding them. With Newt this was not a big risk. The three-times married Gingrich, whose spell in congress ended in controversy in the late 1990s, has a lot more baggage than Santorum.
Also, the recent polling suggests that Santorum is looked on a lot more favourably than Gingrich ever was. A recent national poll showed 64% of voters having a positive view of Santorum compared to only 22% with a negative one. Romney's figures in the same poll were 44/43.
Michigan is the one to watch, then – it's going to be a serious fight.
Rick Santorum gave a moving speech at CPAC on Thursday, February 10, 2011, decrying the current administration's waffling on Egypt and driving home that conservative social values and economic values go hand in hand. Rick recounted his history of ancestors.