Gov. Mitt Romney had a pleasant homecoming last night when he won the Michigan primary with 39% of the vote over Sen. John McCain’s 30%. After placing second in Iowa and New Hampshire, Romney needed the win in Michigan to stay a viable possibility for the Republican presidential nomination.
In his victory speech, a visibly delighted Romney told the crowd, “We don’t mind the fight” and claimed the win was a “victory of optimism over Washington style pessimism.”
He was greeted by a crowd of supporters, with shouts of “We love you Mitt!” punctuating his speech.
Romney’s father, George Romney, was a three term governor of the state as well as the head of American Motors in the 1960s. This and his home state upbringing made Mitt Romney the “favorite son” going into the race.
He led most national polls, competing with McCain for first place. A small part of the difference between them appeared to be independent and crossover democratic voter turnout. Because Michigan allows registered voters to participate in primaries for either Party, that vote could have gone either way.
McCain, fresh off a first place win in Iowa, had relied heavily on these votes. McCain won Michigan eight years ago and had hoped history might repeat itself. He even campaigned Monday with Democrat Senator Joe Leiberman, who has endorsed him.
“Having independent and Democratic votes shows potential for the general election,” McCain said yesterday, according to a Fox News report.
But, a post debate Fox News analysis found that the majority of voters in Michigan were Republicans. McCain breaks from conservatives on several issues, such as his positions on immigration, campaign finance, terrorist interrogation methods and the Bush tax cuts. However, these more moderate positions may help him in some primaries, as they did in New Hampshire.
Most notably, Michigan — which suffers the nation’s highest unemployment rate — brought the economy to the forefront. Experts say the state is headed toward a recession, and candidates fought to reassure residents they could pull them out. Romney soothed concerns, telling voters he “will not rest until Michigan is back.”
Romney focused primarily on Michigan this week, while other Republicans took their campaigns to coming primary states, where they are more favored to win. Mike Huckabee, who came in a distant third place, courted southern conservative voters in South Carolina. In his Michigan post primary speech, Huckabee applauded his campaign doing “so well” in a state where the two winners had such deep roots.
There was virtually no focus on Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson or Ron Paul, who all finished out of the running in Michigan. Giuliani is focused on Florida, where he is predicted to well and Thompson is counting on South Carolina for a bounce. Thompson confirmed on Hannity and Colmes last night that he must “do well” in South Carolina if his candidacy is to succeed.
With the major state contests won by three different Republican candidates, the stakes are high for the next primary elections. Huckabee, McCain and Romney all vowed to win South Carolina in their victory speeches last night. But many, including Newt Gingrich, have predicted no true frontrunner will surface until Super Tuesday on February 5.