Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has won the Michigan GOP primary, a first major victory for the former Massachusetts governor.
"It's a victory of optimism over Washington-style pessimism. The people of Michigan said they believe in someone who is going to fight for them," he told the Associated Press after his win was announced.
Romney's ties to Michigan proved beneficial. Four in 10 voters said his roots factored into their votes, and more than half of that group backed Romney, according to early results from exit poll surveys.
He also led among voters who said the economy and illegal immigration were their most important issues, and won a majority of Republicans, conservatives, and voters looking for a candidate with experience.
Meanwhile, John McCain placed second, while former Arkansa Governor Mike Huckabee placed a distant third. The three GOP candidates have now won in the first four states to vote in the 2008 primary season, leaving the GOP field of presidential nominees wide open.
But both McCain and Huckabee remain optimistic about winning in the Palmetto State. South Carolina Republicans vote on Saturday.
"We will win in South Carolina," McCain said in his concession speech Tuesday night in Michigan.
"I congratulate the governor. I just talked to him on the phone and congratulate him on his victory. Starting tomorrow, we're going to win South Carolina, and we're going to go on and win the nomination," the Arizona senator said after his loss to Romney.
Several experts predicted McCain had an edge in Michigan among moderates, independents and Democrats. But fewer non-Republican voters participated in the GOP primary this year than in 2000 when those voters helped him beat George W. Bush. Independents and Democrats accounted for roughly one-third of the vote this year.
Huckabee, the winner of the Iowa caucuses, has emerged as an improbable contender. But he has since lost to John McCain in New Hampshire and, now, Mitt Romney in Michigan. He is staking his claim on South Carolina's Evangelical base as well as young working-class voters attracted to his economic populist message.
"Ladies and gentlemen we're going to win South Carolina," Huckabee declared to supporters in Lexington, S.C. "We put a flag in the ground here Saturday. We're going to make it real clear that the first-in-the-South primary is going to give their support to the first-in-the-South candidate."
Though he now has come in third in New Hampshire and Michigan after winning in Iowa, Huckabee said, "Whatever it takes, we're in it for the long haul."
With the win in Michigan, Romney has tallied at least 37 delegates from the first four contests. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee trails him with 31, and McCain follows with 10.
The national party stripped Michigan of half its delegates to the national convention for violating party rules by holding its primary before Feb. 5.
Show Me the Numbers
Take a look below at how GOP candidates fared at the polls in Michigan's primary with all 5,385 of the 5,385 precincts - 100 percent - tallied up.
|Mitt Romney ||337,847 ||39 % |
|John McCain ||257,521 ||30 % |
|Mike Huckabee ||139,699 ||16 % |
|Ron Paul ||54,434 || 6 % |
|Fred Thompson ||32, 135 || 4 % |
|Rudy Giuliani ||24,706 || 3 % |
|Uncommitted ||17,971 || 2 % |
|Duncan Hunter ||2,823 || 0 % |
|Tom Tancredo ||458 || 0 % |
|Sam Brownback ||354 || 0 % |
Source: The Associated Press
Mitt Romney got the big win he wanted in Michigan, and now Republicans are getting ready for a showdown in South Carolina.
With three weeks until Super Tuesday, neither party has a clear frontrunner. Watch John Jessup reports on what's shaping up to be the most expensive presidential race in America’s history. Also, be sure to listen to Pat Robertson's comments at the end.