- (Photo: REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)
Mitt Romney was born and raised in Michigan, but he won the primary in the state where his father was a three-term governor by a thin margin Tuesday night with Rick Santorum trailing by about three percent of the votes.
With 99.9 percent of precincts reporting in Michigan, Romney had 42.1 percent of the votes while Santorum had 37.9 percent. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich stood at 11.6 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively.
The win came as a relief to the former Massachusetts governor, as polls showed Romney and the former Pennsylvania senator neck and neck in the primary race. The victory in Michigan, as well as in Arizona where he was expected to win with a considerable ease, helped Romney gain momentum ahead of the next week's Super Tuesday when 10 states will hold primaries for more than 420 delegates.
"We didn't win by a lot, but we won by enough and that's all that counts," Romney told his supporters in suburban Detroit.
In his address, Romney targeted President Barack Obama. "Our campaign is about more than just replacing a president," he said. "It's about restoring America's promise." Focusing on the economy, Romney said the promise was being threatened by "a faltering economy and a failed presidency." "We're going to get him out of that office and get him back home where he belongs."
Romney didn't mention Santorum or his other rivals in the race for the GOP presidential nomination. But he had termed Santorum's campaign as "dirty tricks" at a press conference in the morning. Santorum had called Romney a "lightweight on conservative accomplishments, which happens to be more important than how much success and how much money you've made in business."
Exit polls show that Romney got votes mainly from Republican loyalists while conservative voters generally supported Santorum, who won the primaries in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri and became a front-runner.
Santorum stood second in Michigan, but he saw that as a victory. "A month ago they didn't know who we are but they do now," he told supporters. "We came into the backyard of one of my opponents in a race that everyone said, 'well, just ignore it, you have really no chance here. And the people of Michigan looked into the hearts of the candidates, and all I have to say is: I love you back!"
Santorum also lambasted the Obama administration. "It's getting harder out here in America," he said. "It's getting harder for people to make ends meet because we have a government that is crushing us every single day," he said. "We have a president who says no. We need a president who says yes to the American people."
In Arizona, Romney won with 47.3 percent of the votes, and Santorum and Gingrich received 26.6 percent and 16.2 percent support, respectively.