Mitt Romney

Laura Weber / MPRN

Mitt Romney pulled out a close victory over Rick Santorum in Michigan tonight. The win gives Romney momentum heading into his next challenge - "Super Tuesday" - when 10 states will hold primaries next Tuesday.

Update 11:49 p.m.

An analyst for the New York Times says Romney's "anti-bailout position" did not hurt him in this race:

Even Mr. Santorum's campaign made a last-minute push to get disgruntled union workers to vote against Mr. Romney for this reason. While primary voters were almost evenly divided on the issue, those who supported the bailout were no more likely to back Mr. Santorum over Mr. Romney.

11:25 p.m.

The Michigan Republican Party is tallying the results for Michigan's congressional districts. There are 30 delegates up for grabs in the state.

Even though Romney won the popular vote, Santorum can still pick up delegates by winning in a district. The delegate distribution will be determined after the Party crunches the numbers.

Laura Weber / MPRN

Vote tallies are starting to come in for Michigan’s Republican primary election.

Early results show Rick Santorum with a slim lead over his rival Mitt Romney.

But Romney’s supporters in southeast Michigan say they’re optimistic and feeling good about the Michigan-native’s odds.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is heading up Romney’s campaign efforts in the state. Schuette says he is disgusted that Santorum encouraged Democrats to vote in the GOP primary against Romney.

“I think that’s stupid, and I think most people view that as cynicism or hypocrisy in its worst form. I don’t get too stressed by it. What it really does show is there’s something in the air of desperation from the other side,” said Schuette.

But Schuette says he thinks Romney will walk away with a win in Michigan tonight.

In a race that's as close and contentious as Michigan's Republican primary has shaped up to be, one would hope that after the dust settles at the end of election day, a winner will have emerged and we can all start speculating about the next group of states set to vote on Super Tuesday (even if Michigan has secretly been enjoying all the extra media attention).

But as MPRN's Rick Pluta told Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark earlier today, it's not quite that simple.

According to Pluta, "winning"  in Michigan really depends on whether you're talking about taking the popular vote  or the delegate count.

With the way the State's primary is set up, the two don't necessarily have to be won by the same candidate.

Pluta explains that Michigan's 30 delegates will be apportioned as follows:

  • 2 delegates will be awarded for the candidate who wins the popular vote
  • 2 delegates for each of the 14 congressional districts* in Michigan, 28 delegates  in total (*Note: Michigan currently has 15 congressional districts but the state is losing a district this year because of the state's population decline in the 2010 Census).

So say, for example, that Mitt Romney, who has focused a lot on the relatively populous southeast part of the state, wins the popular vote.

He'll pick up 2 delegates for the popular vote and delegates for the districts he won.

But Rick Santorum, who has been courting conservatives outside of southeast Michigan, could pick up more delegates by winning in more districts.

It could mirror the 2000 election results where one candidate wins the popular vote, but the other picks up more delegates.

This is just one possibility - one exciting possibility, especially for political junkies.

According to Pluta, a lot of permutations are conceivable  including a full on tie with delegates evenly split. (For you hard-core political junkies, Nate Silver at the New York Times has a detailed breakdown of likely outcomes broken down by district)

With all this possible ambiguity, how is a winner decided? Are delegates or total votes more important?

Depending on who takes what, the candidates will no doubt try to spin the results in their favor, but Pluta says that at this point, just a week before Super Tuesday when roughly a third of all delegates are set to be awarded in a ten-state contest, perceived momentum from the popular vote could likely trump the relatively small number of delegates available in Michigan.

That is, of course, unless things drag on all the way to a brokered convention in which case every delegate could be crucial.

Either way, after today Michigan can sit back and watch the horse race continue.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

It's here: The Michigan presidential primary.

You've got questions? We've got answers.

Join Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and me for seven minutes of pure-politics (you just gotta click the "listen" link above... really, it's that easy).

Want to know more about the Santorum campaign's so-called "dirty tricks"? We got that.

Want to know how Romney could win the state's popular vote... but Santorum could actually win more delegates? We got that, too.

Oh, and how about the latest poll numbers? Don't worry, we've got you covered.

So, take a listen... in seven minutes you'll get up to date on what you need to know about today's primary.

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In a close race, every vote counts.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is accusing his rival Rick Santorum of trying to squeeze votes out of Democrats in Michigan.

Michigan holds an open primary, so Michgian voters can vote across party lines.

One source from Grand Rapids has experienced this. Mary from Grand Rapids wrote into our Public Insight Network this morning:

Yesterday, I received 3 calls from the Santorum campaign to vote today. I am a registered Democrat. This morning I received one more from the Red, White and Blue Fund (Santorum).

More on Romney's response to this tactic from the Associated Press:

Mitt Romney says he's struggling with the Republican Party's right wing in Michigan because he's unwilling to make "incendiary" comments. He also accused rival Rick Santorum
of trying to "kidnap" the presidential nominating process with automated calls urging Democrats to vote in Tuesday's primary in Michigan.

Speaking to reporters hours after the polls opened, Romney suggested his rivals are making headway with the GOP base because they are willing to say "outrageous things" that help them in the polls.

Romney says he's not willing to light his "hair on fire" to try to earn support.

Romney also said phone calls by Santorum's campaign urging Democrats to vote against Romney in Michigan on Tuesday amount to an attempt to "kidnap the primary process."

Arizona also holds its GOP presidential primary Tuesday.

Real Clear Politics

Everyone likes a winner. After Rick Santorum's three-state sweep in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado on Feb 7, it seems Michigan voters sat up and took notice.

The momentum he gained began to show in Michigan poll numbers on Monday, February 13.

According to Real Clear Politics, on that day, Santorum's poll numbers jumped eight percentage points, going from 14 percent on February 12 to 23.7 percent on February 13.

His numbers continued to rise until they peaked on February 15 at 37.8 percent, while Romney's were at 28.5 percent.

From that day forward the political horse race was on.

Both Santorum and Romney began to campaign heavily in Michigan, and their Super PACs were right alongside.

A week later, Romney closed the gap.  We'll see tonight whether it was enough for the presumed front runner.

From the graph above, it looks like support for Newt Gingrich fell around the same time support for Rick Santorum grew. That drop in the polls is why we're not seeing much of Mr. Gingrich in Michigan.

A day before Michigan's Republican presidential primary, Rick Santorum tried to outflank Mitt Romney on a fairly sensitive issue in Detroit: government bailouts.

Santorum blasted Romney for supporting the government's Wall Street bailout while loudly opposing its bailout of the auto industry.

Santorum, for his part, opposed both instances of government intervention in the private sector.

Michigan and Arizona hold presidential primaries Tuesday, and in Michigan, where Mitt Romney was born, the race has been as hard-fought as anywhere in the country.

For Romney, the campaign there has been personal. He often evokes the Michigan of his youth, when his father, George, ran American Motors and went on to become a very popular three-term governor.

But does that family legacy mean anything today?

If you were to go to a Romney event in Detroit or Kalamazoo or Traverse City, you'd be almost guaranteed to hear some Romney family history.

Cle0patra / Flickr

Election Day is here

After weeks of counting down the days, Michigan's presidential primary has arrived. Polls open this morning at 7 a.m. and Michigan voters will find eleven Republicans on the GOP presidential ballot and President Obama, uncontested, on the Democratic ballot. Votes for President Obama won't really count in today's primary, as the state Democratic Party will hold a caucus on May 5th.

Campaign finale

Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were the three major GOP candidates who spent the most time campaigning across the state over the past few days (if you're wondering where Newt Gingrich has been, you can read more about some political theories for his absence here). Here are just a few of the stories that came out of the candidates' campaign stops yesterday:

And, Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry; Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network Rick Pluta and I have been keeping an eye on the race:

Voter turnout

Election officials are, "expecting between 15 percent and 20 percent of the state's registered voters to cast ballots in the presidential primary election. About 21 percent of the state's registered voters participated in Michigan's 2008 presidential primary, when Republicans had a contested race but Hillary Rodham Clinton was the only major Democratic candidate on the ballot," the Associated Press reports.

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Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul spoke out against undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Federal Reserve system and the federal war on drugs to a packed auditorium at Michigan State University this afternoon.

"We still have enough freedom to wake this country up and change the direction, but it has to come from the people. It won’t come top down. It has to come from the people because government reflects the values of the people, so if that’s what you want and you speak and you do your job, Washington will change."

The Paul campaign says he has a good chance of picking up some delegates in Michigan’s primary tomorrow.

Paul says Michigan and other states should have the right to enact medical marijuana laws without worrying about interference from the federal government.

The Obama administration has taken a hands-off policy on enforcing drug laws against most medical marijuana users.

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Rick Santorum is making his final campaign stops across southern Michigan today. He told a crowd of about 300 people in a small hotel ballroom in Lansing that the manufacturing industry needs to “explode” with new jobs again.

Santorum highlighted the disparity in employment levels between people with college degrees and those without, and says the solution is to create more jobs that don’t require a college degree.

"We need to see Michigan again full of people who want to work and creating job opportunities for people to get training and skills so they can get that entry-level job," said Santorum. "They can improve and upgrade their skills as they work in those jobs and move up the ladder and become a foreman and to go up maybe even into management someday. That’s the ladder of success.”

Santorum told his supporters that Michigan’s primary could be a "game changer" for the national primary season. He did not directly mention Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, but Santorum did refer to himself as the true conservative in the race, and the best candidate to beat President Obama in the general election this fall.

"To be attacked on television by someone who is not an authentic conservative by a Massachusetts governor – [laughter and applause] – is a joke. Michigan, you have an opportunity to stop the joke."

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Some Democrats hope they can play a decisive role in Michigan Republican presidential primary.

Robo-calls and e-mail blasts to Democrats are encouraging them to vote for Rick Santorum to help him beat Michigan native son Mitt Romney. Other party activists say Democrats should vote for Ron Paul.

David Doyle is a political consultant and former Michigan Republican chairman. He said it is possible for voters who are not Republicans to swing the primary results.

“Well, as close as this primary appears to be, it may be decided by one or two points. Very few Democrats and independents could have an impact. The problem is, right now, the Democrats seem to be very divided.”

But Doyle said that impact would be diluted if those voters split their votes among the Republican candidates.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

It’s a busy day of campaigning in Michigan for three leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney spent today hopping from one rally to another in hopes of getting enough support to win Tuesday’s presidential primary in his native state.

Hundreds of people jammed into a machine parts manufacturer’s plant near Albion to hear Romney.

"This sure has been fun these last ten days or so," Romney joked, "We started off…15 points behind in the polls.  Now, we’re leading in the polls.   Thanks you guys."

Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant.
Chrysler

Publicus Tacitus, the Roman senator, is given credit for coining the phrase, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.”

He’d feel right at home during the Michigan Republican primary campaign.

Over the past few weeks, candidates, their opponents and those who played a role have been debating just who should get credit for the auto industry bailout.

It’s a long-overdue discussion of what happened a little over three years ago, and the conversation shows just what a political hot button the situation still is for people in Michigan and the Midwest. Here’s a list of credit takers and how they make their cases.

Along with Arizona, Michigan holds its Republican presidential primary Tuesday. If Rick Santorum beats native son Mitt Romney in Michigan, it could throw the race into turmoil.

Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are neck-and-neck in the polls in the run-up to the Michigan Republican primary on Tuesday.

One group that Romney appears to have an advantage with is Roman Catholic voters despite the fact that he is Mormon and Santorum Catholic.

The disconnect between faith and politics highlights differences among Catholics and shows that some religious voters are focusing more on other issues.

Declaring Faith

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney plays up his Michigan roots when he talks to voters in the state where he grew up.

In 2008, Romney won the Republican presidential primary in Michigan. On the campaign trail, he likes to tell stories about his father, George, who was an iconic governor of Michigan in the 1960s:

"He said, 'It sure is great to be in Mount Clemens today,' even though he was in Mount Pleasant. My mother was sitting behind and said, 'George, it's "Pleasant." ' He said, 'Yes, it's pleasant in Mount Clemens.' "

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Predicting presidential primary turnout is a tricky business. You would think if anyone would have a good idea of what to expect it would be the Secretary of State’s office, which oversees elections in Michigan.

“We don’t have a turnout estimate at this point," says Fred Woodhams, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, "because it is a presidential primary and they do vary greatly from cycle to cycle.”

Woodhams says August primaries generally bring in about 18 to 20 percent of eligible voters. But then again that’s August. Adding to the uncertainty is a host of local issues which may, or may not, boost turnout.

Voters in parts of Oakland and Genesee Counties are electing people to vacant state house seats. There are also numerous school bond and other local issues on the ballot in communities around the state.

Losing the Michigan primary would strip the last of the varnish off the image that Mitt Romney is the inevitable GOP nominee for president. It would also commit him to the long march he says he is prepared to wage.

A Rick Santorum victory next week would be bad for Romney — a public-relations nightmare for a native son of Michigan. But political observers say it would mean little to the campaign that still has more money than any other and remains better organized to compete to the end.

Santorum has shot up in the polls in Michigan and even leads Romney in some.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Four days. We are now four days away from the state’s super-important, all-encompassing presidential primary (just in case you don’t feel like doing the math – that would be Tuesday). At this point in the campaign, the most recent polls are showing Mitt Romney with a slight advantage over his main rival in the state, Rick Santorum.

Polling galore

“We have a Rasmussen poll that puts Mitt Romney ahead of Rick Santorum – outside of the margin of error – which would be an actual lead,” Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network explains. And, then there’s the new poll by Mitchell Research and Communications which also shows Romney in the lead but this one, “is inside the margin of error… a statistical tie. But, I think perhaps more important than specifically where the numbers are at, it’s what direction we’re seeing the race take,” Pluta notes.

The all-important TREND moving towards Romney

Rather than just looking at one or two polls, political campaigns tend to look at the actual trend of the numbers: are the numbers moving in the direction of one candidate or the other over a certain period of time and what the spread is between the numbers. “A lot of times, a lot of the media focuses on ‘if the election were held today, then this would be the result’ kind of coverage. And, political professionals certainly care about that… but, they care more about what the spread is, what the gap is, between the candidates and what direction everything is taking. And, right now, everything seems to be moving in Mitt Romney’s direction,” Pluta explains.

So, where’s Newt?

Newt Gingrich, who, just a few short weeks ago was seen as Mitt Romney’s main rival for the GOP nomination, has not actively campaigned in the state. “We have confirmed, what we have long suspected: Gingrich is really leaving Michigan to Rick Santorum to chew on Mitt Romney,” Pluta explains.

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