Rick Santorum entered last night's debate as the frontrunner. As a result, he was beaten up by his Republican challengers. When Romney was the frontrunner, he too was beaten up, and the same goes for Newt Gingrich, Governor Rick Perry, and businessman Herman Cain. As frontrunner, none has been able to stave off the attacks.
The stakes couldn't be any higher for Santorum and Romney. With the race tightening in Michigan and Arizona, where voters go to the polls Tuesday, last night's debate was the last chance for a wide audience to see and hear the candidates.
By many accounts, Gingrich won last night's debates. But polls in the next primary states, Arizona and Michigan, show the former House Speaker far behind and having little chance to catch-up despite last night's debate performance.
For now, this remains a two man race in Arizona and Michigan. In the battle between Romney and Santorum, most analysts agree Romney came out on top last night.
Romney landed punches against Santorum on earmarks and on contraception. The audience in Mesa, Arizona also booed Santorum a couple of times as well - never good for a candidate. The audience didn't like Santorum's answers on why he supported former President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind education policy, and why he supported public funding for contraception even though he personally opposes it.
Santorum spent most of the night on defense, and didn't punch Romney back on his Massachusetts health care law as effectively as he did during an earlier debate in Florida.
While Romney may have out-performed Santorum, many Republicans still aren't excited about him.
Some say Romney only wins when he tears down his opponents, not when he's outlining his own programs, policies, and record.
Analysts have said if Santorum were to win the Michigan primary, it would re-set the race.
But Romney may have re-captured the momentum in his home state where his father once served as Governor.
There are four more full days for Santorum and Romney to put Michigan into their victory column.
Today, Santorum is back in North Texas. He's scheduled to be interviewed by tv host Glenn Beck, and he'll hold a $2,500 a plate fundraiser in Westlake tonight. If he is to fight this out for the long-term, Santorum will certainly need the money to compete.
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