Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took two wins by coming out on top in the GOP primary in Arizona and — after initially lagging in the polls — taking victory in Michigan.
Media outlets declared the former Massachusetts governor the winner in Arizona shortly after the polls closed. With 90 percent of precincts reporting late Tuesday, Romney had captured 47.3 percent of the vote, a plurality over the other candidates.
But because of the tighter race in Michigan, Romney wasn’t declared the victory until after 10 pm. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, the candidate had 41.1 percent of the vote, although Rick Santorum followed close behind at 37.9 percent.
During his campaign speech in Novi, Mich., Romney noted that he wasn’t expected to win in his home state of Michigan — an outcome that would have jeopardized the chances of him claiming the Republican nomination.
“It was just a week ago, the pundits and the pollsters, they were going to count us out,” Romney said. “But across Michigan, and Arizona, I kept on meeting moms and dads, and students, and grandparents – and they were concerned about what’s happening to this great country of ours. And I was confident that we could come together today and take a giant step toward a bright future. So tonight, their efforts have brought our cause a great victory, and we celebrate with people across these states.”
Romney noted, “We didn’t by a lot, but won by enough, and that’s all that counts.”
Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, said Romney’s victories in Arizona and Michigan were “big wins.” LaSalvia has personally endorsed the candidate.
“Governor Romney’s wins tonight are particularly pivotal given the recent surge by former Senator Rick Santorum,” LaSalvia said. “It is clear that Governor Romney’s message ofeconomic hope and renewal has resonated with voters in both Michigan and Arizona.”
Romney’s win in Michigan wasn’t expected because Santorum was leading in the polls. An effort was underway by Democrats to bring out the vote for Santorum to prolong the Republican primary and damage Romney. Michigan has an open primary in which Democrats can participate.
Santorum, who’s also been on top in the national polls for the Republican nomination, has been alarming LGBT activists because of his socially conservative views. On Sunday, he said on ABC’s “This Week” that he doesn’t believe “in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute.
“The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country … to say that people of faith have no role in the public square?” Santorum said. “You bet that makes me want to throw up.”
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, said Romney’s wins shows Santorum views aren’t resonating with the Republican Party.
“Mitt Romney’s victories in Arizona and Michigan reflect a tightening in the field and rejection of Rick Santorum’s extreme views against gays, women and education,” Cooper said. “It remains unknown the actual delegate count from tonight, but any hopes by Santorum to take the race all the way to Tampa have been greatly diminished.”
Cooper predicated the outcome of the Michigan and Arizona primaries would yield greater donor support to Romney as well as the Republican National Committee. Additionally, he predicted a greater turnout on Super Tuesday, which is set for March 6.
The next contest in Republican primary will take place on Saturday, when Washington State holds its caucus. But the next contest after that, Super Tuesday, will involve contests in Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.