• With: Dan Henninger, Jason Riley, Dorothy Rabinowitz, Kim Strassel

    This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," March 3, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," Mitt's Michigan rebound. He pulls off a squeaker in his childhood home state. We'll tell you how he did it and why it matters for the races ahead.

    Plus, high stakes on Super Tuesday. What Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich need to do and where they need to win to slow Romney down.

    And with pump prices climbing ever higher, the Obama administration is feeling the heat. But do they really want lower gas prices?

    Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

    A double victory Tuesday in Michigan and Arizona put presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, back on top of the Republican race, a position he's held and lost several times before in the primary process. So how did he do it? Can the same strategies help him in Super Tuesday states?

    Let's ask, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Political Diary editor, Jason Riley; editorial board member, Dorothy Rabinowitz; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.

    So, Dan, how did Romney do it? Can he keep doing it?

    DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: I think so. In the exit polls, people for whom the economy was the biggest issue, Romney won by 17 points.

    GIGOT: Yes, that's remarkable.

    HENNINGER: And he also won in Detroit, Wayne County, and Macomb County, the so-called Reagan Democrat county, which is to say in areas where their people are under the most economic stress. He had introduced that new tax program, the new economic program, the 20 percent tax cut across the board. And he's also been aligning himself with basically Paul Ryan's ideas on Medicare. So, I think, on the one hand, he's been showing people that he can be a real conservative. And he's presenting a coherent economic program in a way that I think is just pulling the Romney campaign together, on the single most important issue in the campaign.

    GIGOT: Gives him a subject, Jason --


    GIGOT: -- that's larger than his biography. It's basically, and larger than criticism solely of President Obama, to stand behind this, this new tax plan --


    RILEY: I think that's part of it. He's talking about issues that people care about. But I think he also got some help from Rick Santorum in the run-up to the Michigan vote, who found himself talking about contraception and pro-college snobbery and the like. That's apparently not what voters in the Midwest, at least, want to hear. And I think Romney was able to benefit from self-inflicted wounds by Rick Santorum.

    GIGOT: Exit polling shows that Santorum lost among women pretty soundly and broke among men, Romney and Santorum, but lost by five points among Republican women.

    DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: And not only women, he lost among Catholics. He lost in a 70 percent Catholic area in Michigan. He was 9 points ahead.

    GIGOT: A Catholic loss to the Mormon among Catholics.


    RABINOWITZ: Yes. I did not say that. I was hoping somebody else would say that. Here is the thing. Looking in addition to the substance of what Romney is about to talk about, here's the psychological infectious quality now. He has won every important race there is to win. He has, in the aggregate, more delegates than anyone else. That combination of experience is what is giving him this kind of luster that is making him appealing, in addition to what Jason said, which is no one does he owe more to than Rick Santorum.

    GIGOT: On that point, let's listen to Rick Santorum's remarks on primary night.


    RICK SANTORUM, R- FORMER PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My mom's in a very, well, unusual person for her time. She's someone who did get a college education in the 1930s, and was a nurse. And got a graduate degree as a nurse and worked full-time. And when she married my dad, they worked together at the Veterans Administration. That's where they met right after the war. And later on, they were -- they had me and the rest of the family, my brother and sister, and my mom continued to work.


    GIGOT: Well, Kim, what do you read from that -- his emphasis on his - - the strong women in his life on that evening?

    KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: It was a remarkable speech. He sent like the first six or seven minutes talking about his wife, his mother, his daughter. And what it was, a great big admission of a whoops.


    It was basically saying, yes, you know, I spent a little bit too much time talking about some of these social issues on the trail. I also blurted out some things that maybe were not as thoughtful as they should have been. I want to reassure a lot of you voters, as we were just talking about, the Catholics, the women, the suburban voters, that I'm somebody you can get behind. And I think we'll probably see, with any luck, a more disciplined Rick Santorum going ahead because this was a learning moment for him.

    GIGOT: Dorothy?

    RABINOWITZ: I have a question about that, Kim.

    GIGOT: About his discipline?

    RABINOWITZ: Yes, because the whoops moment, it's true. We all watched it. We were mesmerized by it. But there are other whoops moments that he insists on.


    It's one thing to be a conviction candidate. But if you're going to be that, you better have the conviction you want to win. He is not going to do that by dialing back to Kennedy and insisting he was right all along to say he wanted to vomit. Those things are the things that come across.

    GIGOT: That was unpresidential.

    RABINOWITZ: Deeply. And he has not -- given the opportunity last weekend to pull back from that, he says, he yes, I do believe that you should vomit at the idea of total separation of church and state. That states, you know, well --


    GIGOT: I want to get to Jason on this.