From NBC/NJ's Erin McPike
DETROIT, Mich. -- Romney's scooping up some support in Michigan heading into the home stretch before Tuesday's primary. One intriguing get is the support of Dennis Smith, who heads up the Information Network for Christian Homes, which has supported home-schoolers in the Wolverine State since 1984.
Smith yesterday circulated a letter in the state supporting Romney and denouncing many of the Republican candidates, including McCain, and explained in detail the rationale for his thinking. Of McCain, Smith writes: "McCain has been wrong on issues like campaign finance reform and immigration, has an un-presidential nasty temper, and I just don't like him."
By phone this morning, Smith said that he sent the letter to about 3,600 homes of current and former home-schoolers. "The majority are not politically active," he explained, "but they might vote."
While Romney's chief rival here is McCain, Smith's support of the Michigan native is a bigger blow to Huckabee, who is making a play for the state and is certain to try and turn his success with Christians and home-schooling families in Iowa into similar gains here. According to Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, "That could have a great negative impact on Hucakabee's ability to organize under the table sort of speak and help Romney pull in unexpected support."
Smith's letter directs his readers to a couple of Web sites that shed more light on Huckabee's record, including here. Smith writes that Huckabee "says he supports homeschoolers and that they should be left alone, yet he signed into law a bill that imposed new restrictions on homeschoolers in AR."
He added that he investigated Huckabee's record in the past few weeks and through a series of e-mails and issues that were drawn to his attention, Smith said the confluence of factors "really point out some deficiencies in Gov. Huckabee," especially when it comes to education. "I'm not pleased with what I saw about what Gov. Huckabee did in Arkansas." He went on that Huckabee's "rhetoric today doesn't match his" past.
But one thing that worries Smith is this: "Gov. Romney has been relying too much on stump messages," and he fears that he "doesn't sound as genuine" as he could. "Somehow he's got to get beyond that," he said.
Romney also received the endorsement of the Grand Rapids Press and the Oakland Press this week, and the campaign will will go up with a radio ad this weekend touting the Grand Rapids Press endorsement. There will also be a TV ad debuting in the state later today.
The Michigan team believes the campaign is bound to do well in the state because the level of attention has not been what it was in Iowa or New Hampshire, and so the level of turnout will not be comparable. For those who do turn out and haven't been following closely, "The default will be for a guy named Romney in this state," one strategist said this morning, adding that the size of McCain's lead in some polling isn't consistent with what they're seeing.