Romney wins Michigan GOP primary

Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Republican presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney greeted his supporters as he arrived with his wife Ann, right, at his primary election night rally Tuesday in Southfield, Mich. (Carlos Osorio ~ Associated Press)

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

Romney was the third Republican victor in the first four states to vote in the 2008 primary season, further roiling a volatile nomination fight that lacks a clear favorite.

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 senator Fred Thompson was waiting for the top three candidates in South Carolina, already campaigning.

"It's a victory of optimism over Washington-style pessimism," Romney said, echoing his campaign speeches. "Now on to South Carolina, Nevada, Florida."

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.

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 preliminary results from surveys of voters as they left their polling places.

A mere 20 percent of eligible voters were expected to show up at polling stations across frigid and snowy Michigan; turnout was likely to be depressed by a Democratic race of little to no consequence.

Hillary Rodham Clinton was the only top contender on the Democratic ballot, and while she won the primary, she will receive no delegates for the win.

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, from 60 to 30, as punishment. TheDemocratic 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.

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