Romney gains presidential momentum with twin wins

Romney gains presidential momentum with twin wins

With a narrow win in his home state of Michigan and an easy victory in Arizona, Mitt Romney boosted his chances of becoming the Republican nominee to take on President Barack Obama in November.

Supporters of Mitt Romney cheer as television networks project that Romney has won the Arizona primary, at his Michigan primary night rally in Novi, Michigan, February 28, 2012. Reuters
The twin victory over former senator Rick Santorum added new momentum to the former Massachusetts governor's campaign even as the vanquished Santorum claimed success in defeat reminding voters how far he had come.

Pledging to carry the conservative fight against Romney to Ohio and other states holding primaries on Super Tuesday next week, Santorum said: "A month ago they didn't know who we are. They do now."

With three fourths of the votes counted in Michigan, Romney was ahead with 41 percent to 37 percent for Rick Santorum, 12 percent for House member Ron Paul and 7 percent for former House speaker Newt Gingrich.

While Michigan's 30 delegates will be allocated on a proportional basis, Romney's victory in Arizona, where exit polls showed him getting 43 percent to 28 percent for Santorum, gave him all of the state's 29 delegates in the winner-takes-all primary.
Trailing well back were Gingrich and Paul.

Romney needed to win Michigan, where he grew up when his father was a three term governor, to assert his ability to overcome the conservative challenge from Santorum.

A Santorum victory in Michigan would have been a major upset, and raised more questions about how strong a candidate Romney is within his own party.

Less than half of voters in the Republican primary said they strongly favoured their own candidate, while 52 percent had reservations or disliked the other candidate more, according to the exit poll data cited by CNN.

Both candidates have been spending most of their time in Michigan following the last debate.

Michigan and Arizona come four days before Washington state holds its caucuses on Saturday and a week before 10 states hold primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday.

Gentry Collins, a former political director for the Republican National Committee and the Republican Governors Association, said a Romney loss in Michigan would have been a public relations problem for his campaign, but that it wouldn't have fundamentally changed the dynamic of the campaign.