The New York Times:
Whether Mitt Romney wins or loses the Michigan and Arizona primaries on Tuesday, his advisers are warning donors and other supporters to prepare for a longer, more bruising and more expensive fight for the Republican presidential nomination that may not be settled until at least May.
That is prompting a new round of intensified fund-raising by his financial team, which had hoped by this point to be collecting money for a general election match with President Obama. The campaign is increasingly trying to quell anxiety among Republican leaders, while intently focusing on the mechanics of accumulating delegates needed to secure the nomination.
Mr. Romney’s aides said they were confident their sustained attacks portraying Rick Santorum as a Washington insider, and Mr. Santorum’s shaky debate performance in Arizona on Wednesday, had slowed their rival’s recent surge here in Michigan.
But Mr. Romney is by no means in the clear, they said, as he fights to avert a loss in the state where he was born and raised — and where less than three weeks ago he was expected to win handily, before Mr. Santorum’s surprise triumphs in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.
(...) For many Republicans, the question is not just whether Mr. Romney will eventually capture the nomination, but at what cost.
There is a growing sense among party leaders that the primary fight has gone on long enough and that continued attacks by the candidates and their allies have steered the conversation away from the economy and could damage the party’s prospects in the fall.
(...) Indeed, Mr. Romney’s campaign has warned donors and supporters that even with his victories in the coming contests, the Republican competition may very well last until at least the middle of May. They said the situation did not indicate diminishing prospects for Mr. Romney but rather was the result of the party’s delegate-allocation rules and the additional time those require for any candidate to accumulate the 1,144 delegates necessary to secure the nomination.
The acknowledgment that the intraparty competition will most likely continue into the spring would seem to sweep aside the Romney campaign’s hope that it could string together a series of early victories sufficient to claim the nominee’s mantle — symbolically, at least — and begin focusing exclusively on Mr. Obama.
(...) Even as Mr. Santorum appealed to conservatives for support in Michigan on Saturday, his allies were already advertising on his behalf in the next round of states to vote, another indication of how the candidates are planning to keep trading punches no matter what the outcome is on Tuesday.
In interviews, Mr. Romney’s aides and supporters dismissed that notion of a new entrant, and said their campaign was built to go the distance if necessary.
“We’re just going to have to work a little harder, and this team will do it,” said Mel Sembler, a member of Mr. Romney’s finance team, adding that it would be “ready to supply whatever he needs to win this primary” campaign.
“We’re all on the telephone again,” he said, “and we’re getting it done. It’s just going to take longer.”
Reflecting the unsettled outlook, aides to both Mr. Romney and Mr. Santorum are playing down the importance of the Michigan and Arizona primaries. Those contests are preludes to the biggest day of voting in the Republican campaign on March 6, with 10 states and 437 delegates at play on Super Tuesday.