(NEW YORK) — Mitt Romney pulled off a win in the Michigan primary Tuesday night, though the race was close and underscored his struggles as the GOP establishment candidate seeking the party’s nomination.
The former Massachusetts governor also won, by a larger margin, a contest in Arizona, a state that he was expected to take in part because of its large Mormon population.
In Michigan, Romney barely avoided the embarrassment of losing to his chief rival, Rick Santorum, in the state where he was born and where his father was a popular governor.
In 2008, Romney won the Michigan primary by nine points, over John McCain. The closeness of the vote this time around suggests that Romney won’t have a huge surge of momentum at his back in the week leading up to “Super Tuesday,” when an avalanche of delegates will be awarded in 10 states.
As Romney spoke to his supporters in Michigan Tuesday night, he led Santorum by just three percentage points. He claimed that last week, “the pundits and the pollsters — they were ready to count us out,” referring to analyses that Santorum and Romney were running neck and neck.
“We didn’t win by a lot, but we won by enough, and that’s all that counts,” Romney said.
Romney’s victory speech was aimed squarely at President Obama, not Santorum. He mentioned the economy several times and also promised to repeal “ObamaCare,” restore the country’s credit rating and bring in oil from Canada that Obama denied through a pipeline.
“He thinks he deserves a second term,” Romney said of Obama. “He says, ‘We can’t wait.’ To which I say, ‘Oh, yes we can.'”
Just before 10:20 p.m. ET, ABC News projected that Romney would win in Michigan, as Santorum was speaking to his supporters. Before he took the stage, Santorum called Romney to concede the race.
In the delegate scramble, Romney was the clear winner tonight. As the winner of the Arizona primary, he will get the state’s 29 delegates while the other candidates get none. Michigan divides its delegates to candidates based on how many votes they win in congressional districts, so he and Santorum are expected to each win several.
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