Weak Republicans = f([Republican Congress - Obama strength] + ..
Ezra Kelin expalins why a Romney win in Michigan is a loss and why Santorum’s loss is a victory. I think that is splitting hairs.
Republicans are losing in fielding a viable candidate just as they lost in fielding a viable Congress.
“On Tuesday, after outspending his opponent by 2-1, Mitt Romney managed to win his home state by four points. That's a win. But it's a win that makes Romney look weak, not strong.
The question with Romney, at this point, is whether he's a strong general-election candidate who is ill-suited for the peculiar dynamics of modern-Republican primaries, or whether he's a weak general-election candidate whose vulnerabilities are being exposed in the Republican primaries.
One way to answer that is through polls. The latest Politico/George Washington University poll, for instance, finds, "Romney is bloodied after nine contests, five of which he has lost. Only 33 percent of independents view him favorably, compared with 51 percent who see him in an unfavorable light. In a head-to-head match-up against Obama among independents, Romney now trails 49 percent to 37 percent." Losing ground among independents suggests a real weakness in the general election. But it might be meaningless. Those independents might simply be reacting to the primary, and they'll come around when Romney transitions to his general-election campaign.
But that might not happen anytime soon. Another way of presenting the outcome in Michigan is that Santorum challenged Romney in his home state, got outspent by 2-1, and still only lost by four points. If Romney won in a way that made him look weak, Santorum lost in a way that made him look strong. It's not the sort of a result that leads an overperforming longshot to drop out of the race.”