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Romney wins convincing Michigan victory

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/republican_rdp;_ylt=Al1mpWE_Yx96GoCXttW4ERSs0NUE Romney wins convincing Michigan victory By LIZ SIDOTI and GLEN JOHNSON, Associated
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 15, 2008
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/republican_rdp;_ylt=Al1mpWE_Yx96GoCXttW4ERSs0NUE

      Romney wins convincing Michigan victory

      By LIZ SIDOTI and GLEN JOHNSON, Associated Press
      Writers 4 minutes ago

      DETROIT - Mitt Romney scored his first major primary
      victory Tuesday, a desperately needed win in his
      native Michigan that gave his weakened presidential
      candidacy new life. It set the stage for a wide-open
      Republican showdown in South Carolina in just four
      days.

      Three GOP candidates now have won in the first four
      states to vote in the 2008 primary season, roiling a
      nomination fight that lacks a clear favorite as the
      race moves south for the first time.

      The former Massachusetts governor defeated John
      McCain, the Arizona senator who was hoping that
      independents and Democrats would join Republicans to
      help him repeat his 2000 triumph here. Mike Huckabee,
      the former Arkansas governor, trailed in third, and
      former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson is making a last
      stand in South Carolina.

      "It's a victory of optimism over Washington-style
      pessimism," Romney said in an Associated Press
      telephone interview from Southfield, Mich., echoing
      his campaign speeches and taking a poke at McCain, the
      four-term senator he beat. "Now on to South Carolina,
      Nevada, Florida."

      Minimizing the significance of Tuesday's vote, McCain
      said he had called Romney to congratulate him "that
      Michigan welcomed their native son with their
      support."

      "Starting tomorrow, we're going to win South Carolina,
      and we're going to go on and win the nomination,"
      McCain declared, also in an AP interview from
      Charleston, S.C.

      Huckabee, too, already campaigning in the next primary
      state, predicted in Lexington, S.C., he would "put a
      flag in the ground here Saturday." He also jabbed at
      Romney, who has poured at least $20 million of his
      personal fortune into his bid: "We need to prove that
      electing a president is not just about how much money
      a candidate has."

      In Michigan, with most precincts reporting, Romney had
      39 percent of the vote, McCain had 30 percent and
      Huckabee 16 percent. No other Republican fared better
      than single digits.

      Previously, Huckabee had won leadoff Iowa, and McCain
      had taken New Hampshire. Romney won scarcely contested
      Wyoming.

      Hillary Rodham Clinton was the only top contender on
      the Democratic ballot Tuesday. With most precincts
      counted, she had 56 percent of the vote to 39 percent
      for uncommitted delegates to the Democratic National
      Convention.

      Romney's ties to Michigan proved beneficial.

      Four in 10 voters said his roots factored into their
      decisions, and 58 percent of that group backed him,
      according to preliminary results from surveys of
      voters as they left their polling places, taken for
      The AP and the networks. He also led among voters who
      said the economy (42 percent) and illegal immigration
      (39 percent) were their most important issues, and won
      the most Republicans (41 percent), conservatives (41
      percent), evangelicals (34 percent) and voters looking
      for a candidate with experience (52 percent) or shared
      their values (37 percent).

      McCain had an edge with those who wanted an authentic
      president (43 percent), and he won among moderates (40
      percent), independents (35 percent) 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,
      compared with about one half eight years ago.

      Romney had a slight edge over McCain as the candidate
      likeliest to bring needed change, 32 percent to 28
      percent.

      The economy proved the most important issue for
      Republicans in Michigan, the state with the highest
      unemployment rate in the nation and an ailing auto
      industry. Given four choices, 55 percent of Michigan
      Republican primary voters picked the economy as the
      most important issue, while 17 percent picked Iraq, 13
      percent immigration and 11 percent terrorism.

      A mere 20 percent or less of eligible voters were
      expected to show up at polling stations across frigid
      and snowy Michigan, the turnout depressed in part by
      the Democratic race of little to no consequence.

      For Republicans, the stakes varied.

      Of the three candidates competing hard here, Romney
      needed a Michigan victory the most to invigorate a
      campaign crippled by searing losses in Iowa and New
      Hampshire. He was the only one who watched the voting
      returns in Michigan; his top Michigan opponents,
      McCain and Huckabee, campaigned in the state earlier
      in the day but left by afternoon to plant themselves
      in next-up South Carolina.

      Up for grabs in Michigan were 30 Republican delegates.

      Romney campaigned in the state far more than his
      rivals and spent more than $2 million in TV ads in
      Michigan, nearly three times what McCain did,
      according to an analysis of presidential advertising
      by the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
      McCain paid for more than $740,00 in ads and Huckabee
      spent more than $480,000.

      Feeling optimistic in the run-up to the Michigan
      voting, Romney went back on the air with TV ads in
      South Carolina after a brief hiatus.

      A muddle from the start, the GOP race has grown ever
      more fluid as the first states voted over the past two
      weeks.

      Romney was second to Huckabee in the Iowa caucuses and
      to McCain in New Hampshire's primary while Huckabee
      dropped to third. Thompson is camping out in South
      Carolina looking for his first win. Rudy Giuliani is
      doing the same in Florida, which votes Jan. 29.

      The former New York mayor got only 3 percent of the
      Michigan vote, trailing Thompson and Texas Rep. Ron
      Paul as well as the top three, and he hasn't fared
      better than fourth in any of the states so far. Yet,
      the fractured GOP field plays into his strategy of
      lying in wait — and making his move — in Florida in
      the run-up to Feb. 5 when some two dozen states vote.

      Romney was born and raised in Michigan, and his late
      father, George, was head of American Motors and a
      three-term governor in the 1960s. The younger Romney
      announced his presidential candidacy in the state a
      year ago.

      McCain had a built-in advantage of his own. He won the
      state's primary eight years ago on the strength of
      independent and Democratic-crossover voters, and he
      still had a network of hard-core backers. Six months
      after his campaign nearly collapsed, he now leads
      national polls.

      Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, had
      hoped to stage a surprise finish with the support of
      Christian evangelicals who live in the more
      conservative, western part of the state. With his
      populist pitch, Huckabee also wanted to do well in
      Reagan Republican country outside of Detroit.

      The economy dominated the weeklong Michigan campaign.
      The state has been reeling from the U.S. auto
      industry's downturn and has the nation's highest
      unemployment rate at 7.4 percent.

      Michigan doesn't typically hold its primary until
      February but state party officials scheduled it
      earlier to try to give the state more say in picking a
      president. The Republican National Committee objected
      and cut the number of Michigan delegates to the
      national convention by half as punishment while the
      Democratic National Committee stripped the state of
      all 156 delegates to its national convention,
      including 28 superdelegates who would not have been
      bound by the outcome of the primary.

      ____

      Liz Sidoti reported from Washington. Associated Press
      writers Jim Kuhnhenn and Alan Fram in Washington,
      Libby Quaid in Warren, Mich.; David Eggert in Traverse
      City, Mich., and Sara Kugler in New Smyrna Beach,
      Fla., contributed to this report.
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