Mitt Romney won Michigan’s Republican presidential primary yesterday, re-invigorating a campaign that needed a victory after losses in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Romney, a Bloomfield Hills native, had campaigned hard in the state in the run-up to yesterday’s primary. The effort paid off.
The former Massachusetts governor took 39 percent of the Republican vote, comfortably beating second-place John McCain, who garnered 30 percent of the vote.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee finished third, winning 16 percent of Republican votes in Michigan.
In precincts with large numbers of University students, though, Romney finished second to McCain, a senator from Arizona. Forty percent of voters in 15 precincts near campus picked McCain, who won the state’s primary in 2000. Romney got 34 percent of the student vote.
Romney’s victory sets up a showdown in South Carolina between the three leading candidates, and almost guarantees that the Republican nomination won’t be decided until Feb. 5, when 24 states will hold their nominating contests.
Romney heavily outspent McCain in Michigan. He spent at least $2 million on television advertisements, compared to McCain’s $740,000. But polls taken in recent days showed almost equal support for Romney and McCain among Republican voters throughout the state.
Romney and McCain each made more than ten campaign stops in Michigan over the weekend, delivering speeches that outlined their respective plans to revitalize the state’s failing economy.
Romney, whose father George served as governor of Michigan in the 1960s, pledged to “not rest until Michigan is an economic powerhouse again” and said he planned to save the automotive industry through targeted federal investment in scientific and technological fields.
Both candidates said research and development investments would stimulate Michigan’s economy, although the candidates have acknowledged a significant difference in how they think this will happen.
Political science Prof. Michael Traugott said Romney needed to win in Michigan to show that he could organize a winning campaign. In addition, Traugott said Romney appeals to “mainline Republicans,” which makes him a strong candidate for South Carolina’s primary election scheduled to take place on Saturday.
Despite Romney’s appeal to South Carolinian Republicans, Traugott was quick to point out that Huckabee was likely the favorite in the Palmetto State because of his Southern Baptist background.
Traugott noted that McCain’s support in Michigan came largely from Democratic and independent voters. He said he doubted the Arizona senator’s chances in an overwhelmingly conservative state like South Carolina.
“The results from the first few (presidential primaries and caucuses) show that it will be difficult for him to get support from Republicans,” Traugott said. “I think it’ll be harder for McCain in South Carolina.”
According to exit polls, about two-thirds of voters who identified as independents voted in the GOP race. About one-third of those chose McCain – more than voted for any other candidate. But that’s down from the two-thirds of the independent vote he garnered in 2000.
Rep. Ron Paul placed fourth in yesterday’s election, winning 6 percent of the vote. Paul finished ahead of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson.
Rob Johnson, chair of the University’s chapter of Students for Ron Paul, said although Paul received more votes that Giuliani and Thompson, he was hoping for a larger percentage of the vote.
Paul got 16 percent of the vote in precincts near the University’s Central Campus.
Despite the small support for Paul in Michigan, Johnson remains optimistic about the Texas congressman’s chances.
“We’ll have activity to do once Ron Paul wins the nomination,” Johnson said. “If he gains momentum, he truly has a potential to catch on. You can’t count him out at this point.”
– The Associated Press and Daily Staff Reporters Mara Gay and Elizabeth Lai contributed to this report.