The New York Times reports: Mitt Romney fought back a vigorous challenge from Rick Santorum in Michigan yesterday, narrowly carrying his native state, and won the Arizona primary in a pair of contests that reasserted his control over the Republican presidential race as it advances to critical Super Tuesday contests next week.
His victory over Mr. Santorum in Michigan was far from commanding, but it was most likely sufficient to dampen the rising clamor from across the Republican Party about his ability to win over conservatives and connect with voters. The tussle with Mr. Santorum highlighted ample concerns about Mr. Romney, but his win spared his campaign from deep turmoil.
“I stand ready to lead our party to victory and our nation back to prosperity,” Mr. Romney told a jubilant crowd of supporters. “It’s a critical time in America.”
The victory by Mr. Romney in Arizona, which awarded him the state’s entire allotment of 29 delegates, was overshadowed by the battle in Michigan. He prevailed in the statewide popular vote by four percentage points, relying on large margins in the counties around Detroit where he spent his childhood, but the fight for delegates was closer.
Michigan awards its 30 delegates by Congressional district, which meant Mr. Santorum would either leave Michigan with nearly the same number as Mr. Romney or only slightly fewer. Mr. Santorum beamed when he took the stage before a cheering crowd in Grand Rapids and reminded his supporters of how far he had come.
“A month ago they didn’t know who we are,” Mr. Santorum said, moments after calling Mr. Romney to concede. “They do now.”
As the Republican presidential nominating fight enters its third month, the race remains far from deciding the nominee who will challenge President Obama. A dozen primaries and caucuses will take place over the next week, dominated by Super Tuesday, when more than 400 delegates will be at stake.
Representative Ron Paul of Texas spoke yesterday evening from Virginia, a state where only he and Mr. Romney qualified for the ballot next week. Having built an extensive network of supporters in caucus states, including several holding contests on Super Tuesday, Mr. Paul pledged to stay in the race, declaring that his campaign is “still winning a lot of delegates, and that’s what counts.”
Newt Gingrich, who did not actively campaign in Michigan or Arizona, is hoping to revive his candidacy next week in Georgia and Tennessee. His allies are airing a new “super PAC” television advertisement on his behalf starting Wednesday, aggressively taking on Mr. Romney across several Southern states.