Next up for Santorum, Romney: Super Tuesday states

Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum smiles at his primary night rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
.

View gallery

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Rick Santorum seized about as many of Michigan's GOP delegates as primary winner Mitt Romney, and could end up with more, in a close contest that does little to clarify the muddled presidential race heading into Super Tuesday.

After Romney's strong win in Arizona and close finish in his native state of Michigan, the GOP field fanned across Ohio, Tennessee and Georgia for the weeklong sprint to Tuesday's 10 contests. Washington state's caucuses fall in the middle, on Saturday.

Romney tried to build momentum from his wins, Santorum crowed about his near-miss and Newt Gingrich looked to revive his campaign in the South — where he will battle Santorum for the party's most conservative voters.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul could also be a factor in the Super Tuesday delegate count, especially in caucus states such as North Dakota.

Tuesday night's Michigan race was so close — Romney won the contest with 41 percent of the vote to Santorum's 38 percent — that the delegates will be closely divided between the top two candidates, with Gingrich and Paul getting none. With 26 of the state's 30 delegates decided, Romney and Santorum each won 13.

Results that will determine the distribution of the final four delegates were incomplete Wednesday. But Santorum held a slight edge that would give him the majority of Michigan's delegates, if it holds.

Campaigning at Temple Baptist Church in Powell, Tenn., on Wednesday, Santorum said he was heartened by his success in Romney's backyard.

"We had a much better night in Michigan than maybe was first reported. This was a really great race to go into, in a sense, the belly of the beast, the hometown of my chief rival here in the Republican primary," he said. In addition to Tennessee, the former Pennsylvania senator is focusing on the big prizes of Ohio and Oklahoma next week.

Chastened by the tough fight in the state where his father was governor in the 1960s, Romney acknowledged in Michigan that he had made mistakes and was trying to "do better and work harder."

"We didn't win by a lot, but we won by enough," he told supporters Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, Romney focused on the economy and business know-how, saying at a fence post factory in Toledo that he wants "to go to work for the American worker."

He promised about 150 supporters "more jobs, less debt and smaller government" if he's elected in November. Romney was making another stop, in Bexley, before leaving Ohio for North Dakota, which holds caucuses Tuesday.

In Atlanta, Gingrich acknowledged that he must win Georgia — the state he represented in Congress for 20 years — to "move forward" with his campaign. With Gov. Nathan Deal at his side, Gingrich predicted he would win "decisively."

But the other states Gingrich is focusing on, such as Tennessee and Oklahoma, will be tougher.

Paul, who keeps a less grueling campaign schedule than the others, was flying home to Texas to celebrate his wife Carol's leap-year birthday on Wednesday.

On Super Tuesday, 419 delegates are up for grabs in states also including Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia.

All four campaigns face financial strain: It would cost about $5 million to run a week's worth of heavy ads across all the states that vote Tuesday.

The Super Tuesday races could go a long way toward determining which Republican will take on Democratic President Barack Obama this fall.

Romney's Arizona triumph came in a race that was scarcely contested, and he pocketed the 29 Republican National Convention delegates at stake in the winner-take-all state. He won 47 percent of the vote to Santorum's 27 percent.

Michigan's primary was as different as it could be — a hard-fought and expensive contest that Romney could ill afford to lose and Santorum made every effort to win.

With his twin victories, Romney had 165 delegates, according to an Associated Press count, compared with 85 for Santorum, 32 for Gingrich and 19 for Paul. It takes 1,144 to win the nomination at the convention in Tampa, Fla., this summer.

The lengthening GOP struggle to pick a nominee has coincided with a rise in Obama's prospects for a second term. A survey released Tuesday shows consumer confidence at the highest level in a year, and other polls show an increase in Americans saying they believe the country is on the right track.

Unopposed for the Democratic nomination, Obama timed a campaign-style appearance before United Auto Workers Union members in Washington, D.C., for the same day as the Michigan primary. Attacking Republicans, he said assertions that union members profited from a taxpayer-paid rescue of the auto industry in 2008 are a "load of you know what."

All the Republicans running for the White House opposed the bailout. But in the auto state of Michigan a survey of voters leaving polling places showed about 4 in 10 supported it.

___

Associated Press writer Connie Cass in Washington contributed to this report.

View Comments