Happy February 29. With 99.9% reporting, Mitt Romney wins his home state of Michigan with 41.1% to 37.9% for Rick Santorum and 11.6% for Ron Paul.
Jim O'Toole files from Novi, Mich:
Still, the mere fact that he posed such a mortal threat to the better funded Mr. Romney -- in the state once governed by his popular father, George Romney -- demonstrated the remarkable growth of his campaign since his days of single digit support here and across the country only months ago. The sense of relief in the Romney campaign in eking out a win in a state so filled with the candidate's political and personal DNA showed how precarious his hold on Republican support remained.
As a result, Romney wins 21 delegates from the congressional district results, according to results posted by the Michigan Republican Party, but only 14 of those delegates will be allowed to vote at the national convention because the state broke national GOP rules by moving its primary before the Super Tuesday contests next week.
Santorum wins 18 delegates from the congressional districts, but only 12 of those people will be able to vote at the national convention.
The statewide popular vote will be distributed between Romney and Santorum on a proportional basis with 14 at large delegates at stake, but only two of those delegates will have voting privileges. How those will be divvied up hasn’t been determined.
Yet even in victory, the campaign in Michigan highlighted Romney’s flaws as a candidate. That he had to fight as hard as he did in a state he won four years ago was a reminder that he is still struggling to connect with a portion of his party’s base, even against what party strategists regard as relatively weak opposition.
While Tuesday reinforced again that he has the clearest path to the nomination, the way he won suggested that he still might have to scratch his way there, which is not how a front-runner is supposed to win.
Super Tuesday offers some promising states for frontrunner (Massachusetts, Vermont, Idaho and Virginia, the last of which doesn’t include Santorum or Gingrich on the ballot) but also features some less hospitable terrain (Tennessee, Oklahoma, North Dakota).
The most important state next week, however, may be just to the south of here – and not just because it offers 66 delegates. A Romney win in Ohio, another heartland state and a quadrennial presidential battleground, would send a loud message that he can beat Santorum in a Rust Belt state that the son of Detroit can’t claim as home.
But he continues to face questions about whether, should he win the nomination, he will be able to capture the energy of the conservative constituencies that have propelled the party when it has had electoral success in recent years, especially evangelicals and the Tea Party movement.
“It does seem that his campaign is having a tough time sort of garnering that — not just that support, but that energy that’s needed,” former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, a favorite of the movement, said in an interview late Tuesday. “Whether Romney wins or loses in Michigan tonight, just the fact that he’s had such a fight in his home state is evidence of that blessing not yet being given to him across the board.”