Big stakes today in Michigan. The Cardinal's confessional has been open all morning and I've heard from both Romney and McCain fuglemen. The latest polls give a slight edge to Romney, but both sides are tense. The McCain people don't like the polls and the Romney people don't like the unpredictable size of the likely crossover independent vote for McCain. That said, the last few campaign days have felt good for Romney and, like many candidates facing a dire end, he's finally found his message.
Meanwhile the McCainiacs are seeing record crowds and sense a big crossover vote is in the works. The most experienced McCain Michigan consultant is convinced McCain will win. A Romney consultant who predicted to me the Huckabee win in Iowa and who also has significant Michigan experience thinks Mitt will pull it out.
So there you have it; two freight trains fast approaching each other. Just to make this even more complicated, there are two theories on the crossover vote. One holds that with nothing really happening on the Democratic side, it'll be big. The other reminds us that the rules are different this year, with crossover voters having to declare a party. That might be a damper. I buy theory one, so I give a razor-thin edge to McCain. But this race could go either way.
The Michigan outcome will have a big effect on the GOP race. If Romney wins, he's back in the hunt and South Carolina will get interesting. Will a Mitt surge be enough to give him a win in South Carolina's tough terrain? The general talk in SC is that Mitt is in third place in a relatively tight race, with Huckabee in second and McCain in first. Or will a Romney Michigan win just be a catalyst in the larger McCain/Huckabee dynamic? Will Fred Thompson, now on TV in SC and making a serious attempt there, catch fire? If McCain wins Michigan, I think he is likely to win South Carolina as well, and the GOP race will have a clear frontrunner. Stay tuned; the next four days could determine the GOP nominee. Coming up after that: the big finish in Florida.