DEARBORN, Mich.--Mitt Romney secured an important win Tuesday night over Rick Santorum in Michigan, in addition to handily winning Arizona one week before 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 victory party in Novi, Mich.
In Michigan, Romney held a 3 percent lead--41 percent to 38 percent over Rick Santorum--with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Ron Paul received 12 percent of the vote and Newt Gingrich received 7 percent. In Arizona, with 90 percent of precincts reporting, Romney led with 47 percent, Santorum was in second with 27 percent, Gingrich third with 16 percent and Paul fourth with 8 percent.
A loss for Romney in Michigan--where he was born and raised and where his father served as governor--would have virtually guaranteed a protracted primary season.
Despite earlier polls showing Santorum besting Romney in Michigan, Romney and his surrogates raised expectations in the state, and this week, the most recent polls out of Michigan showed Romney edging back up to tie Santorum.
After his win, Romney sounded like a general election candidate , attacking President Obama on the economy, jobs, and energy among other issues, and avoiding all mention of his Republican competitors.
"I stand ready to lead our party to victory and our nation back prosperity," Romney said.
In an optimistic speech during which several news networks declared Romney the winner of Michigan, Santorum said, "A month ago they didn't know who we are, but they do now."
News outlets reported that Santorum called Romney to concede prior to his speech, although 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." He segued into making an appeal to women, particularly working women, perhaps a sign of Santorum's strategy moving into the Super Tuesday contests on Mar. 6.
All Michigan voters were permitted to participate in Tuesday's primary. One in 10 Republican primary voters in Michigan were Democrats, according to preliminary exit poll data. More than half of Michigan voters cited the economy as the most important issue driving their vote.
Because Arizona's 29 delegates are awarded on a winner-take-all basis, Romney received a sizeable delegate boost from the state, which he carried easily as expected.
Michigan will award its 30 delegates on a mostly proportional basis.
Ron Paul campaigned in Michigan, but he did not hold any events there on Tuesday. He held a primary night celebration in Virginia, where he spoke to supporters before the poll closings. Gingrich all but ignored Michigan in favor of the Super Tuesday contests and additional upcoming voting states. He spent Tuesday night in Georgia.
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