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Romney vs. Santorum: Down to the wire in Michigan and Arizona

Though the momentum seems to be with Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum does well in some polls. But beyond next week's primaries, then “Super Tuesday” a week later, establishment Republicans worry about the outlook for taking on Barack Obama in November.

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Republican presidential candidates, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, left, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at a Republican presidential debate in Mesa, Ariz. on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012.

Nick Oza/The Arizona Republic/AP

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As Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney bludgeon their way toward this coming week’s critical primary elections in Arizona and Michigan, each can look back at this past week and wish they had done some things differently.

Santorum got knotted up in Congress-speak in Tuesday night’s debate, battered on earmarks and having to explain why he voted for things he opposed on principle. Romney probably would have picked a better venue for his economy speech Friday, one that didn’t look like a handful of people in a vast stadium. And he likely regrets adding to his rich-guy image by remarking on his family’s stable of automobiles – including his wife’s “couple of Cadillacs.”

At week’s end, Santorum might wish that the cumulative missteps had balanced each other out. Still, the momentum with just three more days to campaign seems to be on Romney’s side.

Another Mitt Romney clunker? 'Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually....'

Nationally, Real Clear Politics polling data show Santorum ahead of Romney among Republican voters by as much as 12 points with a polling average of 5 points. But there’s no such thing as a national party primary election, and Romney beats Santorum by a polling average of 9 points in Arizona and just under 2 points in Michigan. And in the most recent polls – taken after what most pundits saw as Santorum’s shellacking in the Tuesday night debate – Romney leads in Michigan (where a home state loss would be devastating) by as much as 6 points.

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