Mitt Romney won today’s Republican presidential primaries in Michigan and Arizona, stalling a surge by Rick Santorum that had upended the party’s nomination race.
“What a night,” Romney said to supporters in Novi, Michigan.
Romney had 41 percent of the vote in Michigan and Santorum 38 percent, with 82 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press tally. Running third was U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas with 12 percent, followed by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 7 percent.
In Arizona, Romney had 48 percent of the vote, with 52 percent of precincts reporting in the AP tally. Santorum had 26 percent, followed by Gingrich with 16 percent and Paul with 9 percent.
Santorum, speaking in Grand Rapids, Michigan, before the final result in the state was known, touted his “great conservative track record.”
Romney, 64, and Santorum, 53, focused most of their efforts on Michigan. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, sought to avoid the embarrassment of losing in a state where he was born and his father served three terms as governor. He had been the strong favorite in Michigan until Santorum raised doubts about Romney’s support with wins in three states earlier this month.
For Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, a Michigan victory would have built upon his triumphs in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri and given him fresh momentum heading into the March 6 Super Tuesday contests in 11 states.
More than 400 of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the party’s nomination are at stake on Super Tuesday.
Michigan’s 30 delegates to the Republican National Convention are awarded proportionally, based on results within each of the state’s congressional districts. The allocation of delegates in the state between Romney and Santorum had yet to be settled.
Arizona’s primary is winner-take-all, so Romney gets all of the state’s 29 delegates.
Spending in Michigan on television commercials by Romney’s campaign and a political action committee backing him has outpaced expenditures on behalf of Santorum by a ratio of about 3-to-2, according to data from New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, a company that tracks advertising.
The Romney campaign and Restore Our Future spent $3.12 million to air ads 6,229 times on Michigan broadcast television stations through yesterday, CMAG reported. Santorum and the Red White and Blue Fund, a PAC supporting him, spent $2.15 million to air ads 5,337 times.
Michigan has an open primary, meaning Democrats and independents can cast ballots in the Republican race. Romney earlier today criticized Santorum’s campaign for making automated telephone calls to Democrats in the state to urge them to vote for Santorum. Romney said his rival was trying to “kidnap” the nomination process.
The calls cited Romney’s opposition to the $82 billion federal automotive bailout, which Santorum also opposed.
Romney told reporters the calls were the “dirty tricks of a desperate campaign.”
“Republicans have to recognize there’s a real effort to kidnap our primary process,” Romney said in Livonia, Michigan.
Neither Gingrich nor Paul competed aggressively in Michigan, concentrating instead on states voting next month.
Romney, a former private equity executive who said today that he’s made some “mistakes” in his campaign messaging, termed Santorum “an economic lightweight” in his understanding of how to create more jobs.
In response, Santorum told reporters today in Ohio --a state that will hold a primary next week -- that he’s offering a “conservative message” that will appeal to Republicans.