Mitt Romney waves 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mark Blinch)
WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney won both the Michigan and Arizona Republican
presidential primaries on Tuesday night, giving him the lion’s share of
delegates thus far for the GOP nomination and reestablishing himself as the
front-runner in the race.
Romney and his challengers face just one other
vote, the Washington state caucus on Saturday, before next week’s Super Tuesday
contests, when 10 states head to the polls.
Romney has chosen to appear
that day at the Washington DC conference of the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee (AIPAC), the largest pro-Israel lobby. This year’s attendance is
expected to set a record, with well over 10,000 attendees.
competitors Rick Santorum, who has posed the most serious challenge to Romney,
and Newt Gingrich are also expected to attend the conference at a time when
candidates are traditionally making their last pitch to voters at campaign
All three candidates have criticized US President Barack Obama,
who will address AIPAC on Sunday, for not standing strongly enough with Israel
or taking tough enough steps to stymie Iran’s nuclear ambitions – topics that
are sure to figure prominently in their speeches.
But the primary battle
in Arizona, and even more so in Michigan, focused primarily on domestic issues,
as the candidates tried to argue that each was the best choice to help
economically struggling locales.
Values issues also played a role, as
Santorum, a Catholic, attacked John F. Kennedy’s campaign speech on the
importance of the separation of church and state, delivered to reassure voters
that as president he wouldn’t take orders from the Vatican. The move earned him
criticism from Gingrich and didn’t help him prevail among Catholics in Michigan,
who went for the Mormon Romney 44 to 37.
Romney, who was at one time
expected to easily win Michigan since he grew up there and his father was once
its governor, edged out only a three-point margin of 41 percent to Santorum’s
38% Tuesday night.
Romney, speaking to supporters Tuesday night,
acknowledged that the win was modest.
“We didn’t win by a lot, but we won
by enough and that’s all that counts,” he said.
Santorum, for his part,
emphasized the inroads made by challenging Romney so strongly.
ago, they didn’t know who we are.
They do now,” Santorum told his own
backers following Tuesday’s vote.
Gingrich, who received just 7% of
Tuesday’s Michigan vote, spent the day in Georgia focusing on the southern state
he once represented in Congress, which his campaign believed he had a better
chance of winning than either Michigan or Arizona.
Georgia has the most
delegates at stake on Tuesday, though Virginia, Tennessee and Ohio also have
significant numbers, with the last a key swing state that is often a bellwether
for the rest of the country in the general election.
Gingrich has long
seen the South – home to the one state, South Carolina, that he’s won so far –
as his strong suit, and has struggled to stay relevant in the other contests.
But the former US speaker of the House is now reported to be receiving another
significant cash infusion from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who along with
his wife has already given upwards of $10 million to his
Meanwhile, the remaining GOP candidate, Ron Paul, has his sites
set on the Super Tuesday caucuses in Alaska, North Dakota and Idaho, as well as
Washington, which is seen as representing his best possibility of picking up a
He received 12% of the Michigan vote and 8% of Arizona’s.
Gingrich garnered 16% in Arizona, with Santorum taking 27% and Romney easily
prevailing with 47%.