Republican hopeful Mitt Romney avoided embarassment by winning the primary election in his home state of Michigan. As expected, he also won the day's second primary in Arizona with ease.
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney narrowly won the Republican Party’s primary in his home state of Michigan and easily won in Arizona, giving him a much-needed boost in the prolonged contest.
With 92 percent of precincts reporting in Michigan, Romney’s share of the vote stood at 41 percent while his closest rival, Rick Santorum, garnered 38 percent.
Congressman Ron Paul took 12 percent of the votes, while former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich managed just 7 percent.
Polling released Tuesday showed both men in a dead heat, with Romney - defending his home state - having the most to lose.
"A week ago the pundits and the pollsters were ready to count us out," Romney said in his victory speech in Michigan. "We didn't win by a lot, but we won by enough."
Tough opponent, similar states
The ex-Massachusetts governor faced a strong challenge from Santorum, who once served as senator for the demographically similar state of Pennsylvania.
Romney had tried to play down expectations by lashing out at Santorum's "dirty tricks" in Michigan's open primary. He accused Santorum, among others, of trying to "kidnap" the voting procedure by calling upon the support of conservative Democrats as well as Republicans.
Santorum defended the move as standard electoral politics, saying his aim was to show he would have broad appeal in a match-up against President Barack Obama.
Some Democrats have also been urging supporters to vote for Santorum, with the aim of prolonging the negative, gaffe-ridden campaign which has been seen as advantageous to Obama ahead of the November 6 general election.
Obama himself got involved in the race on Tuesday, attacking his Republican opponents for their opposition to his bailouts for the Michigan-based auto industry. Obama accused Republicans of being on the "wrong side of history," and of pandering to conservative voters.
In Arizona, Romney cruised to an easy victory, being declared the winner shortly after polls closed at 9 p.m. local time.
rc/bk (AFP, AP, Reuters)