Romney wins Michigan and Arizona

DEARBORN, Mich.– Mitt Romney secured an important win Tuesday night over Rick Santorum in Michigan in addition to handily winning Arizona ahead of Super Tuesday.

“We didn’t win by a lot, but we won by enough and that’s all that counts,” Romney told a crowd gathered at his state headquarters in Novi, Mich in his victory speech.

In Michigan, Romney held a 4 percent lead– 41 to 37 percent over former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum– with 74 percent of precincts reporting. Texas Rep. Ron Paul received 12 percent and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich received 7 percent of the vote.

A loss for Romney in Michigan– the state where he was born and raised and where his father served as governor– would have been highly problematic for his campaign and would have virtually guaranteed a protracted primary election season.

Despite earlier polls showing Santorum besting Romney in Michigan, Romney and his surrogates had only raised expectations in the state by refusing to express anything but confidence regarding his odds. As of this week, the most recent polls out of Michigan showed Romney edging back up to tie Santorum.

In an optimistic speech after his Michigan loss, Santorum declared, “A month ago they didn’t know who we are, but they do now!”

Media outlets reported Santorum called Romney to concede, though Santorum did not address the vote totals or his opponent directly during his address. Santorum used much of his speech, delivered at a primary rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., to reinforce his fiscally conservative platform and to laud his 93-year-old grandmother who received a graduate degree as a nurse, worked full-time and “taught me how to balance family,” said Santorum. He segued into making an appeal to women, including working women, particularly working women, perhaps a sign of Santorum’s strategy moving into the Super Tuesday contests Mar. 6.

If Santorum had emerged victorious in Michigan, his opponents would have claimed Democrats and independents put him over the top, since Santorum’s campaign targeted these groups in the final days of the campaign. All registered voters were permitted to participate in Tuesday’s primary in Michigan, where there is not a party registration requirement. One in 10 Republican primary voters in Michigan were Democrats, according to preliminary exit poll data. And more than half of Michigan voters cited the economy as the most important issue driving votes.

Romney was expected to easily carry Arizona, where Mormons make up a percentage of voters. Though there was little excitement remaining in terms of who the winner would be in Arizona, the primary will prove profitable, since its 29 delegates are awarded on a winner-take-all basis, giving Romney a sizeable delegate boost.

Michigan will award its 30 delegates on a mostly proportional basis.

Romney and Santorum spent Tuesday making last-ditch pitches to Michigan voters (Santorum also made one campaign stop in neighboring Ohio– a Super Tuesday state.) Paul has campaigned in Michigan, but did not hold any events here Tuesday. He held a primary night celebration in Virginia, where he spoke to supporters prior to the poll closings. Gingrich all but ignored Michigan in favor of Super Tuesday contests and additional upcoming voting states. He spent Tuesday night in Georgia.

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