The rumors of Mitt Romney's political death in Michigan turned out to be greatly exaggerated. The former Massachusetts Governor won his home state by a relatively comfortable margin, besting Rick Santorum by four percentage points (as of this writing) and roughly 30,000 votes. We've ridden a public opinion rollercoaster through the Great Lakes State over the last few weeks: Romney swung from comfortably ahead to significantly behind after Santorum's unexpected three state sweep, then managed to piece together a final surge that put him over the top. "A comeback!" his supporters exclaim. Then again, just a month ago, few would have anticipated that a comeback would ever be necessary for Romney in his old stomping grounds. Nevertheless, a win is a win -- and Team Romney will gladly take it heading into Super Tuesday's ten contests. Here's Romney declaring victory and sharply criticizing President Obama (full transcript HERE):
His best lines were (a) "more jobs, less debt, smaller government, (b) the quip about America needing a "recovery from this so-called recovery," and (c) the reminder that President Obama also inherited an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress. He proceeded to squander his chance to reignite economic growth in favor of Left-wing adventurism. Here's a cursory and somewhat haphazard look at that the exit polling data coming out of the Michigan rumble:
Women: Romney 42 - Santorum 38
Union Members: Santorum 45 - Romney 26
Crossover Democrats : Santorum 53 - Romney 17
Republicans: Romney 47 - Santorum 37
Independents: Romney 33 - Santorum 33
Very conservative voters: Santorum 50 - Romney 35
Tea Party supporters: Romney 42 - Santorum 41
Tea Party opponents: Santorum 39 - Romney 33
Catholics: Romney 43- Santorum 37 (!)
Santorum performed well among the most ardent ideologues -- at both ends of the spectrum. Democrats accounted for 9 percent of voters in the GOP primary, and they broke overwhelmingly for Santorum. The former Senator, who voted against right to work laws in Congress, also crushed Romney among voters affiliated with organized labor. Conversely, Romney won among self-identified Republicans by ten points. Over to you, Rick Santorum, one month ago:
"We want the activists of the party, the people who make up the backbone of the Republican Party to have a say in who our nominee is as opposed to a bunch of people who don't even identify themselves as Republicans picking our nominee," Santorum told voters on the call held January 29. "I don't like that. I believe that states should only allow Republicans to vote in Republican primaries."
By Phil Klein's back-of-the-envelope tabulation, if Santorum had gotten his way in Michigan, Romney's margin of victory tonight would have been 3.5 percentage points wider. As for Democrats' talking point that GOP turnout is depressed across the board (not true in Iowa or New Hampshire, and South Carolina by the way), Michigan's totals increased over 2008 levels. Romney has also eclipsed his personal raw vote tally from 2008, when he also won the state.
Finally, there was another election tonight in Arizona. Mitt Romney won that contest, too -- by a whopping 21-point margin (with 79 percent of precincts reporting). He also swept almost all major demographics, even tying Santorum among "very conservative" voters. Crucially, because of the state's winner-take-all system, the former governor pocketed all 29 delegates. So not only did Romney carry the popular vote in both states, he won the lion's share of the evening's 59 available delegates. WE'll keep you posted on the final tally once it's determined. Finally, a telltale sign that Romny had a great night: MSNBC's entire panel angrily dumped all over him after his victory speech, as did Paul Begala on CNN. The Left is transitioning into full blown slash-and-burn general election mode. If Romney continues to excel, expect a lot more of this sort of bigotry on parade in the months ahead.
UPDATE - It now appears Romney and Santorum will evenly split Michigan's delegates. If that figure is confirmed, Romney walks away from Tuesday's races with 43 delegates, Santorum with 15. Also, I've replaced the partial video of Romney's speech with the full thing. This video was bizarrely difficult to find, for some reason.