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Mitt Romney wins in Michigan and Arizona

at 11:05 PM ET, 02/28/2012

With Super Tuesday just a week away, Mitt Romney claimed wins in the Republican primaries in both Michigan and Arizona, padding his delegate lead and dealing a setback to former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum’s campaign. A recap of today's primaries follows.

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10:40 p.m. | MICHIGAN | Romney wins

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has won the Michigan GOP primary, the Associated Press and several TV networks project.

CNN, which had been airing Rick Santorum’s primary-night speech live, cut into the former senator’s address to announce Romney’s win.

“We’re going to interrupt Sen. Santorum for a very important bulletin,” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said.

The network also reported that Santorum called Romney before his speech to concede.

— Felicia Sonmez


Romney supporters cheer his win in Novi, Michigan. (Bill Pugliano - GETTY IMAGES)

Supporters cheer Romney on in Phoenix. (Matt York - AP)

» More photos from Michigan, Arizona primaries


10:30 p.m. | MICHIGAN | Santorum speaks

Santorum: ‘I love you back’

It was a concession speech without a concession.

Rick Santorum took the podium in Grand Rapids, Mich., just minutes before networks called the state of Michigan for Mitt Romney. Yet his speech did not acknowledge his loss.

“A month ago they didn’t know who we are, but they do now,” he declared.

“We came into the backyard of one of my opponents,” he continued to cheers. “And the people of Michigan looked into the hearts of the candidates, and all I can say is: I love you back.”

Michigan voters, he said, “saw a vision for how their lives could be better.”

The crowd was enthusiastic, cheering and booing loudly in turn. Santorum even brought a prop, holding up a piece of oil-rich North Dakota shale rock to demonstrate his commitment to domestic oil production.

America, he said, needs a candidate “who is an author of free-market health care economics, who has been a fighter for replacing all of these programs across the country at the federal level,” who will “end entitlement programs at the federal level.”

He promised: “The solutions we’re going to propose for America: The bottom. Up.”

— Rachel Weiner


10:10 p.m. | MICHIGAN | Santorum’s tough math

Nearly half of the vote is in, and we still don’t have a winner. But things are looking tough for Rick Santorum.

Romney leads by about 20,000 votes overall with half the vote counted, and the biggest source of votes for him — Detroit-based Wayne County and suburban Oakland and Macomb counties — are lagging behind the rest of the state in reporting their totals.

Given that Romney is winning those three counties by between nine and 19 points each, that means there are potentially tens of thousands of votes that Romney can add to his lead that have yet to be counted.

Santorum is counting on support in more rural areas of the state, but overcoming Wayne, Oakland and Macomb is tough, given that they comprise more than one-third of the GOP primary vote.

— Aaron Blake


10:05 p.m. | MICHIGAN | No tea-party love for Ron Paul

Is Ron Paul the tea-party candidate?


Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Not if tonight’s exit polls are anything to go by.

About half of today’s Michigan Republican primary voters were tea-party supporters, according to early exit polls. Of them, only about eight percent voted for Paul.

Another eight percent voted for former House speaker Newt Gingrich, while former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former senator Rick Santorum evenly split the rest.

What does it mean for Paul’s campaign? It could mean that his limited-government message has been adopted by his rivals in the presidential race – to the point where he’s no longer the candidate of choice for tea-party backers. It could also mean that the tea-party movement is about much more than simply lower taxes and decreased government spending.

— Felicia Sonmez


9:50 p.m. | MICHIGAN | A close look at the “dirty tricks” voters

Final exit poll analysis from our Polling team in Behind the Numbers:

Just 17 percent of independents and Democrats who voted for Rick Santorum say they “strongly favored” him, while 44 percent said they disliked the other candidates. By comparison, 48 percent of Santorum’s Republican supporters say they strongly support him.
Here are some other clues, with results among Democrats who voted in Michigan:
- 53 percent voted for Santorum
- 95 percent are moderate to liberal, 57 percent are liberal
- 74 percent are not born again
- 56 percent strongly oppose the tea party

— Natalie Jennings


9:35 p.m. | Ron Paul says he’s not ‘in cahoots’ with Romney

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who is in Springfield, Va., tonight, pushed back against Rick Santorum’s claim that he’s “in cahoots” with Mitt Romney.

“If that’s all he has to talk about, that means he doesn’t have much of a platform,” Paul told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview shortly after the networks called Arizona for Romney. “He just pulled that out of the air, because there’s no truth (to it).”

Paul said that he thinks all three of his competitors are “very similar” on the issues and that the only difference he sees is in their “management styles.”

“I see them all in the same category,” Paul says.

Paul may not be “in cahoots” with Romney, but the Texas Republican’s camp acknowledged last week that the two candidates coordinated to skip a CNN debate in Georgia — only one of several instances of the two campaigns working together.

— Felicia Sonmez


9:30 p.m. | MICHIGAN | Dancing at Romney headquarters


9:20 p.m. | MICHIGAN | Romney’s stock rises in Michigan

The free market thinks Romney is going to win the Michigan primary.

While the results are far-from-determined, the political trading market InTrade predicts there is a 75 percent chance Romney wins in the Great Lakes State — a significant uptick from earlier tonight. Santorum’s odds have declined to10 percent.

Early exit polling does show some good sings for Romney — apart from the number of Democrats voting for Santorum.

But it could still be a long night before anything goes official.

Aaron Blake


9:10 p.m. | ARIZONA | Romney wins Arizona

With polls closed, networks and the AP have declared Mitt Romney the winner of the Arizona primary.

The result was never seriously in doubt.


Romney and his wife, Ann, wave to supporters at a campaign stop in Royal Oak, Mich., on Feb. 27. (Rebecca Cook - Reuters)

While a Feb. 21st CNN poll showed Romney and Rick Santorum tied in the state, it was quickly shown to be an outlier. Most surveys gave Romney a safe, double-digit lead, and no other candidate competed with him on the airwaves.

Mormon voters were likely a major factor in Romney’s win — they made up 11 percent of the GOP electorate in the 2008 primary and broke overwhelmingly for him.

But even if it doesn’t change the narrative of the race, Arizona is a winner-take-all state with 29 delegates, so Romney’s win here matters for the delegate race.

— Rachel Weiner


9:05 p.m. | MICHIGAN | Santorum shortens up his stump speech; gets Secret Service protection

The Post’s Nia-Malika Henderson, who has been covering Rick Santorum in Michigan, reports that the former Pennsylvania senator has been tightening up his stump speech in recent days:

Reports Nia:

One thing that was noticeable in the last days of Santorum’s Michigan campaign was that he shortened his speech a bit, and met and took pictures with anyone and everyone who wanted to meet him. The same thing Gingrich did in South Carolina. ... Voters who had seen both Santorum and Romney noticed the difference between Romney’s rather stiff presentation and Santorum’s more accessible approach.

One other noteworthy development on the Santorum trail in recent days: the candidate has been granted Secret Service protection, a marked change from his typically low-maintenance campaign travel style.


The Secret Service detail holds the door open for former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum as he leaves a campaign stop at the New Beginnings Restaurant in Kentwood, Michigan, February 28, 2012. (REUTERS/Jim Young)


8:55 p.m. | Arizona? Michigan? Gingrich holds raucous primary-night party in Georgia

The Post’s Amy Gardner, on the ground in Carrolton, Georgia, reports that former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) is having something of a big party at his old employer, the University of West Georgia – complete with a huge crowd, a big press riser, rock and roll music ... and no mention of tonight’s Arizona or Michigan primaries:

Nearly 800 miles due south of the closely contested Michigan primary, Newt Gingrich, who declined to compete in either of Tuesday’s contests, celebrated with at least 500 supporters at the University of West Georgia as if it were a fruitful election night for him, too.
Gingrich taught history and geography at the school in the 1970s, and he began his congressional career representing a nearby Georgia district. On Tuesday, he sought to celebrate that past with a packed ballroom of fans, rock-and-roll music, a bleacher of students standing behind him on the stage -- and no mention of Arizona or Michigan.
While Santorum was edging ahead of Romney in very early Michigan returns, Gingrich was telling a 10-minute story about a tree that fell on his neighbor’s house when he was a professor here.

— Felicia Sonmez


8:47 p.m. | The Fix: Is ‘Operation Hilarity’ working?

Michigan Democrats and the Santorum campaign aligned forces in an effort to undermine Mitt Romney, encouraging Democrats to vote for Santorum in today’s primary. And early exit polls offered the first look at whether that strategy could be paying off:

One in ten voters in the Michigan Republican presidential primary identified themselves as Democrats, according to early exit polling, the first time in the GOP nomination process that members of the rival party comprised a double-digit portion of the electorate.

Read Chris Cilliza’s full take on ‘Operation Hilarity’.

— Amanda Zamora


8:50 p.m. | MICHIGAN | “Uncommitted” versus Obama

The Republican primary isn’t the only race featuring mischief tonight.

While there’s lots of talk about “Operation Hilarity” and Democrats voting for Rick Santorum to help President Obama in the general election, how about those who turned out to vote against the president in a meaningless and uncontested Democratic primary?

Early results show the “uncommitted” option taking more than 15 percent of the vote against Obama.

Extrapolating from early exit polls, about 3,000 voters so far are Democrats voting for Santorum, versus 1,153 who have voted “uncommitted” instead of for Obama.

(Another note: In the Missouri Democratic primary on Feb. 7, “uncommitted” took 6 percent against Obama).

— Aaron Blake


8:30 p.m. | MICHIGAN | Could Democratic mischief help Santorum pull an upset?

Let’s take a look at the 2008 results to find out.

Four years ago, Mitt Romney won Michigan’s GOP primary with 39 percent to John McCain’s 30 percent.

About 868,000 votes were cast. Of them, Romney won about 338,000 to McCain’s 258,000 – an 80,000-vote margin of victory.

This time around, exit polls suggest that about 10 percent of Michigan’s GOP primary voters were Democrats, up from seven percent four years ago.

If turnout this year is on par with where it was four years ago, then that means about 87,000 voters in today’s Michigan primary were Democrats.

That’s more than Romney’s 2008 margin of victory. And Rick Santorum is winning at least half of those Democratic voters so far, according to early exit polls. That would suggest that Democrats could well prove decisive in the race.

— Felicia Sonmez


8:16 p.m. | First votes in Michigan

We won’t know the winner of the Michigan primary for a while yet, but the first votes are starting to roll in.

Initial results in Detroit-based Wayne County show Santorum leading Romney 47 percent to 34 percent.

We should stress that it’s still very early, and that these results mean essentially nothing.

Not all of the polls are closed yet in Michigan; four western counties — Gogebic, Iron, Dickinson, and Menominee — will remain open until 9 p.m. EST.

That’s the same time that polls close in Arizona, where we are likely to see a winner declared well before we have one in Michigan.

Visit our Primary Tracker for county-by-county results and delegate counts.

Aaron Blake


8:05 p.m. | MICHIGAN | Democratic Santorum voter ‘felt a little dirty’

CNN interviewed a Democrat who voted for Rick Santorum — a.k.a. a participant in Operation Hilarity.

Bruce Fealk said he had no qualms playing tricks in the GOP primary but did feel “a little dirty” after voting for a candidate he despised.

“I just feel that he’s by far the weakest candidate,” Fealk said. “I think it’s the right thing to do strategically.”

But Fealk admitted that after voting for Santorum, who he believes “would take this country back to the 18th century,” he “felt a little dirty. I went home and took a shower and felt fine.”

— Rachel Weiner


8:02 p.m. | Your photos from Michigan, Arizona

A Storified view from Michigan and Arizona:


7:47 p.m. | MICHIGAN | Another robocall urges Democrats to vote Santorum

Talking Points Memo’s Evan McMorris-Santoro unearths another robocall in Michigan urging Democrats to vote for Rick Santorum in today’s GOP primary.

The call appears to have been recorded by the same actor as the robocall first obtained Monday by TPM. And like that call, the latest one also purports to have been paid for by Rick Santorum for President.

Both would suggest a concerted effort by the Santorum campaign to get Democrats out to the polls today — even though Santorum said last month that only registered Republicans ought to participate in GOP primaries.

File under “Things that make you go hmmm.”

— Felicia Sonmez


7:40 p.m. | ARIZONA and MICHIGAN | Waiting music

Sitting in silence, waiting for those results to come in? We know the feeling.

Here’s some music to listen to while you wait — our Arizona and Michigan playlists. It’s good. Really, we promise.

The best of Michigan (Eminem, the Supremes) the best of Arizona (Calexico, Stevie Nicks) and the best of both (Alice Cooper) are all represented, so download it!

Rachel Weiner


7:35 p.m. | Romney should win more delegates tonight

One of the most interesting things to watch coming out of tonight will be the delegate race.

It’s virtually guaranteed that Mitt Romney will win more delegates, given that he’s a shoo-in in Arizona, which is awarding all 29 of its delegates to the winner of its primary.

In Michigan, the delegate picture is more complicated. There, nearly all of the 30 available delegates will be awarded, two at a time, to the winner of each of the state’s congressional districts.

Because that state has 14 congressional districts under the latest Census, two delegates are left over. They will be awarded proportionally based on the statewide vote — likely one apiece for Romney and Santorum.

So, in other words, Romney could win the state by racking up huge margins in certain congressional districts, but if Santorum wins more districts, he would walk away with more delegates from Michigan.

Still, Romney will extend his current delegate lead (more on that here) in the GOP primary — regardless of the narrative that will be in tomorrow’s newspapers.

Aaron Blake


7:25 p.m. | Gingrich: ‘We unequivocally have to win Georgia’

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who isn’t competing in either of tonight’s contests, is setting the stakes high for next week’s Georgia primary.

“What’s the minimum number of victories for you next Tuesday that you really need to keep your campaign going?” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Gingrich earlier today.

“Well, I think we have to pick up delegates in a number of states and we unequivocally have to win Georgia,” Gingrich responded. “But we have to gain delegates in a number of states and I think we will. I think we have very good opportunities, as you pointed out, in Tennessee, Oklahoma, Ohio. Also, I think we’ll have a chance to pick up some delegates in Idaho, in Vermont ... North Dakota, for example.”

Watch Gingrich’s pitch to Peach State voters:

As we’ve written, Gingrich faces a tough path to victory in his home state of Georgia, where many GOP primary voters have cited his negativity as a reason they have decided to switch their votes over to former senator Rick Santorum.

Last week, Santorum drew a crowd of more than 3,000 people at a megachurch outside of Atlanta – a sign of his campaign’s increasing momentum in the Peach State.

— Felicia Sonmez


6:48 p.m. | MICHIGAN | You can’t take the Romneys out of Michigan

Mitt Romney may be downplaying his Michigan ties (see the previous post) but his connections to his home state, where his father was once governor, are unavoidable on the campaign trail there.

Staff reporter Philip Rucker snapped this photo for #2012Unfiltered at a Romney campaign event Monday. Mitt and Ann Romney autographed this vintage sign a Michgander brought to the rally.

Have an iPhone or iPad? You can participate in #2012Unfitered. Here’s how.

— Natalie Jennings


6:40 p.m. | MICHIGAN | Tracking tonight’s results

For the campaign nerds, The Fix has a great tool for tracking tonight’s results.

Below are county-by-county results from 2008, combined with projections as to how well Romney needs to do tonight in order to pull out the victory in Michigan.

(And click through to The Fix if you want this on its own page.)

— Aaron Blake


6:30 p.m. | Romney downplays Michigan ties


Mitt Romney greets supporters in Livonia, Mich. on February 28. (REBECCA COOK - REUTERS)

In an interview on Fox Business Network Tuesday night, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney did some pre-emptive spin on the possiblity of a defeat in Michigan by ... downplaying his Michigan ties.

“If I were turned down by Massachusetts, where I have lived for the last 40 years and served as governor, that would be a little harder to explain,” Romney said in the interview, which aired at 6 p.m. EST.

Romney has frequently played up his Michigan roots on the campaign trail. He grew up in the Wolverine State; his father was a popular three-term governor there; and Romney won the state in the 2008 GOP primary. So it struck us as somewhat odd to hear him on Tuesday night pointing to Massachusetts as his true “home” state.

What say you, liveblog readers?

— Felicia Sonmez


6:13 p.m. | MICHIGAN | More exit poll nuggets: Economy still the most important issue, electability not as much

@PostPolls is tweeting updates and exit poll results data througout the night.

Natalie Jennings


6:00 p.m. | Santorum wins search wars


(Google)

A Santorum win may appear doubtful in Arizona, but in terms of search traffic, the former senator from Pennsylvania is trending ahead. Get a full breakdown of how the Republican candidates are faring on Google Search ahead of tonight’s primary results over at The Fix.

— Amanda Zamora


6:00 p.m. | Santorum in January: Only Republicans should vote in GOP primary

Rick Santorum is defending his campaign’s robocalls urging Democrats to vote for him in the GOP primary, arguing that the calls are an appeal to “conservative Reagan Democrats.”


Former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). ( Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

But in a conference call with Minnesota voters last month, Santorum was singing a different tune when it comes to Democrats and independents voting in Republican nominating contests.

Reports CNN’s Adam Aigner-Treworgy:

“We want the activists of the party, the people who make up the backbone of the Republican Party to have a say in who our nominee is as opposed to a bunch of people who don’t even identify themselves as Republicans picking our nominee,” Santorum told voters on the call held January 29. “I don’t like that. I believe that states should only allow Republicans to vote in Republican primaries.”
In stark contrast to his campaign’s more recent courtship of Democrats, in January Santorum told Democrats that if they wanted to vote for a Republican, they should switch their party affiliation.
“It’s the Republican nomination, not the independent nomination or the Democratic nomination,” he said on the call. “If you’re a Democrat and you want to be a Democrat, then vote in the Democratic primary, not the Republican. If you want to vote in the Republican Party then become one.”

Seems that Santorum’s views on the subject have shifted as the political winds have changed.

— Felicia Sonmez


5:45 p.m. | MICHIGAN | Early exit polls indicate high turnout from Democrats

Preliminary exit polls in Michigan show about one in 10 voters say they identify as Democrats. That’s higher than any of the other early contests, and it could be the first time the number of Democratic-identifiers has hit double digits.

Consequently, compared with the 2008 GOP primary in the state, Republicans make up a smaller share of the electorate this time.

Nearly a third of the voters see themselves as independents, a proportion surpassed only by New Hampshire.

The number of Democrats voting is slightly higher than in 2008 but lower than in 2000, when there was a concerted effort to get Democrats to vote for underdog presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.

— Post Polls


5:25 p.m. | Santorum: I’m not a theocrat

Rick Santorum was asked by conservative commentator Laura Ingraham today whether he is a “theocrat.” Santorum’s response:

“I’m not a theocrat. ... I have values. I articulate those as I encourage everyone else to do and respect everybody else’s opinion and difference of opinion. That’s what America’s about.”

He then argued that President Obama is the one who is intolerant of others’ religious views.

“He’s the one imposing his views on people of faith,” Santorum said. ”I’m not. I’m just the opposite. I’m completely tolerant. That doesn’t mean I don’t hold opinions, but I’m tolerant and in fact encourage people to make their case to the American public.”

The trouble for Santorum, of course, is that while he may espouse a tolerant viewpoint on the campaign trail, his more provocative remarks about Obama’s “theology” and John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on the separation of church and state are what have garnered him national attention — and not in a flattering way.

--Felicia Sonmez


5:15 p.m. | What to watch for in the exit polls

The Post Polls team posted the five key things to watch for as exit polling data becomes available:

• Will strong conservatives sink Romney?
• Will the ‘dirty trick’ Democrats make a difference?
• Will the class divide that hurt Romney in South Carolina recur?
• Will the electability argument hold Santorum back?
• Where do Arizona’s Hispanics stand?

Preliminary data will be available shortly and the polling team will have horse-race data from Michigan around 9 p.m. EST.

More on what to watch for in Behind the Numbers

Natalie Jennings


5:00 p.m. | Michigan | Looking back

Michigan went for President Obama in the 2008 general election, with 57.3 percent of the vote. State-by-state historical general election data is available on our new iPad app. Read more about that here.

— Natalie Jennings


4:50 p.m. | John McCain laments negative campaigning

The tenor of the GOP campaign seems to have drawn the ire of at least one prominent Republican.


Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“This is like watching a Greek tragedy,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a supporter of Mitt Romney, told the Boston Herald on Tuesday. “It’s the negative campaigning and the increasingly personal attacks ... it should have stopped long ago. Any utility from the debates has been exhausted, and now it’s just exchanging cheap shots and personal shots followed by super PAC attacks.”

McCain said he still believes Romney will be the nominee, “but I also worry about how much damage has been done” – a concern expressed by many Romney supporters, including several top GOP governors.

— Felicia Sonmez


4:00 p.m. | Candidates make final campaign pitches

The focus is on Michigan today, with front-runners Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum both spending their final hours campaigning in the Wolverine State. Delegates are also up for grabs in Arizona, where John McCain is holding an event for Romney this evening. Newt Gingrich spent the day in his home state of Georgia, while Ron Paul set up camp in Springfield, Va. A quick look at today on the campaign trail:


Romney receives a hat from his father’s gubernatorial campaign from a campaign volunteers in Livonia, Mich. Romney is hoping to win tonight’s primary in Michigan, where his father served as governor from 1963 to 1969. (Gerald Herbert - AP)

Santorum hugs wife Karen during a campaign stop at the New Beginnings Restaurant in Kentwood, Mich. (JIM YOUNG - REUTERS)

Gingrich, accompanied by wife Callista, campaigns in Dalton, Ga. Gingrich skipped Michigan and Arizona today to focus on Super Tuesday, when he hopes to win his home state of Georgia. (Evan Vucci - AP)

Ron Paul may have skipped Michigan, but his supporters haven’t. A Paul supporter stakes out Santorum’s motorcade in Grandville, Mich. (Scott Olson - GETTY IMAGES)

— Amanda Zamora

More photos: Michigan, Arizona voters go to the polls

 
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