Mitt Romney has won both of Tuesday’s Republican primaries, beating Rick Santorum in Arizona and winning a narrow victory in Michigan, the state of Romney’s birth. Preliminary results from both states showed Romney ahead at 10: 15 p.m. His lead was 25 points in Arizona, and four points in Michigan.
These victories will provide an important boost for Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who has sought to cast himself as the GOP’s inevitable nominee. He has now won nominating contests in six states: New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada, Maine, Michigan and Arizona.
So far, Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have won five states, combined. On Tuesday night, Santorum cast the close outcome in Michigan as a sign of success, noting that it came in Romney’s “backyard.”
“A month ago, they didn’t know who we are, but they do now,” Santorum said to supporters in Grand Rapids, Mich. He avoided the kind of incendiary religious rhetoric that had hurt him in recent days, talking about small government and praising the women in his family. “The people of Michigan looked into the hearts of the candidates, and all I have to say is, ‘I love you back.’”
Romney’s two victories on Tuesday will not solve his larger problem. Even after months of work and millions of dollars spent, he has not won over a vast swath of Republican voters.
That was clear from exit polls in Michigan. They showed that Santorum had beaten Romney decisively among important Republican blocs. He held a 15-point lead among voters who called themselves “very conservative.” He had a 40-point among those who wanted their candidate to be “a true conservative,” and a 41-point advantage among those who wanted a candidate with “strong moral character.”