Romney wins twice ahead of Super Tuesday contest

Romney wins twice ahead of Super Tuesday contest

DETROIT, Michigan
Romney wins twice ahead of Super Tuesday contest

US Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (L) sweeps crucial primaries in Arizona and his childhood home of Michigan over his biggest rival Rick Santorum. REUTERS photo

Mitt Romney scored a hard-fought victory in his native state of Michigan and also won handily in Arizona, slowing the advance of his top Republican presidential rival Rick Santorum and gaining momentum ahead of next week’s pivotal Super Tuesday contest.

With 99 percent of Michigan’s precincts reporting, Romney had 41 percent to Santorum’s 38 percent. Texas Rep. Ron Paul was in third place with 12 percent, and Newt Gingrich was last with 7 percent. In Arizona with all precincts reporting, Romney led with 47 percent to Santorum’s 27 percent. Gingrich was third with 16 percent and Paul came in last with 8 percent.

Romney’s sweep of Feb. 28’s contests marked the latest turn in a turbulent Republican primary campaign, and could cement his status as his party’s front-runner to challenge President Barack Obama in the November presidential election.

“We didn’t win by a lot but we won by enough, and that’s all that counts,” Romney told cheering supporters in Michigan on Feb. 28 night. “On to the March contests,” he said, looking ahead to next week’s 10 Super Tuesday races that could go a long way toward determining the Republican who will take on Obama.

Santorum still hopeful

Romney’s twin victories give him fresh momentum heading into “Super Tuesday” next week, when 10 states across the country hold presidential nominating contests. More delegates can be won on Super Tuesday than on any other single day of the primary calendar and, accordingly, candidates seeking the presidency traditionally must do well on this day to secure their party’s nomination.

Santorum had hoped for a win in Michigan following his victories earlier this month in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri. He told supporters that a month ago “they didn’t know who we are, but they do now […] We came into the backyard of one of my opponents in a race that everyone said: ‘Well, just ignore it, you have really no chance here,’” Santorum said. The former senator from Pennsylvania vowed to stay the conservative course he has set.

Two other candidates in the race, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, made little effort in either Michigan or Arizona, focusing instead on Super Tuesday contests.

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.