Romney, Santorum head into Michigan neck-and-neck

The next big event in the Republican presidential race is tomorrow.

And the Michigan primary is too-close-to-call, which is not good news for Mitt Romney.

Neither is the latest nationwide poll, from Politico and George Washington University, which shows Rick Santorum with a two-point lead over Romney.

This is an absolutely crucial state for Romney -- he was born and raised there -- in many ways, it's his home state and it's a key battleground state in November. But he's on the defensive, with just a little more than 24 hours to go before voting, and it's Santorum who's on the attack.

"For him (Romney) to say I'm the liberal in this race is a joke," Santorum charged.

With the Michigan contest in a virtual dead heat, Santorum is throwing everything he can at Romney.

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"I don't hide," Santorum said. "I don't hide from the public. I don't have structured events where only my friends are in front of me to take questions."

He also said, "(Romney) can't go after (President) Obama on a healthcare bill because that's his bill."

Also: "He said he was going to be better on gay rights than Ted Kennedy."

That appeal to Christian conservatives continued yesterday, as Santorum knocked John F. Kennedy's famous 1960 speech to Baptist ministers in which he highlighted the separation of church and state.

"To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up," Santorum said.

Romney's strategy is to paint Santorum -- a former Pennsylvania senator -- as an insider, saying, "I don't think you can change Washington if you've been part of the culture of Washington."

The Romney camp is already lowering expectations in Michigan. A key supporter said yesterday that -- while unlikely -- a loss could mean there'll be no clear frontrunner going into the August convention.

"I'm not going to deny that that possibility exists, that we could have a contested convention," N.J. Gov. Chris Christie said on "Face the Nation" on CBS.

And late yesterday, Santorum said if he gets the GOP nomination, it'll be good for the economy. He said, "People ask me, 'When will the economy turn around?' Oh, how about 11 or 12 at night when they declare me the winner in November?"

Romney took a break from campaigning in Michigan yesterday for a trip to the Daytona 500. It's part of his effort to show that he's in touch with ordinary people. But, when he was asked whether he follows NASCAR, he said, "Not as closely as some. But I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners," -- another quote that he just might want to take back.

To see Chip Reid's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.

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