SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – Sporting a blue elephant-print tie, Mitt Romney took the stage here last night to celebrate his first major primary win.
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts finished with about 40 percent of the vote in the state’s Republican primary – about 10 percent more than McCain, who won the Michigan primary in 2000.
After preliminary results came in around 9:15 p.m., Romney and his wife Ann stepped on stage at a victory rally in at the Embassy Suites hotel here to chants of “All the way, Romney!”
The room was filled with more than 300 jovial Romney fans, the vast majority of whom were older. In the hours leading up to Romney’s arrival, sup=`porters crowded around two small televisions to see the latest poll numbers. An ample assortment of appetizers and drinks kept the room happy before Romney’s arrival.
The Michigan primary is Romney’s first big win in his bid for the Republican nomination. Romney campaign advisors pointed to the win as proof that the state’s native son has enough support to be viable candidate.
“Only a week ago, a win looked like it was impossible,” Romney said to the crowd.
Members of the University’s Students for Romney group stood prominently behind Romney and his family on stage.
LSA senior Amy Drumm, chair of the University of Michigan’s chapter of Students for Romney, said that while she had hoped Romney would do well in the primary, a win was never a given.
“The polls didn’t look too good,” Drumm said. “It’s a happy surprise.”
Romney may have been helped by name recognition and home-turf advantage. Son of the late Michigan Gov. George Romney, Mitt Romney was raised in Michigan. The Romney campaign spent more than $2 million television ads trumpeting his Michigan roots, according to The Associated Press.
LSA senior Christina Brewton, a member of Students for Romney, said Romney’s understanding of the state and its problems would serve Michigan residents well.
“He has deep roots in Michigan,” she said. “He’s not just going to overlook our state.”
Though Romney played up his personal ties to the state, even declaring at one point that he would “never accept defeat for any industry here in America,” a clear reference to Michigan’s struggling automobile industry, he looked ahead to the national race.
In his victory speech, Romney fashioned himself as a Washington outsider who could reform what he called a “broken” system.
Discussing his political priorities, Romney outlined his steps to building a better America. At the top of the list was cutting down on the number of illegal immigrants who make it into the U.S. by increasing border security. He also mentioned ethics reform, health care and pork barrel spending as problems he’d tackle if he were elected president.
Campaign posters, which could be found throughout the room, read “Change begins with us,” a theme Romney reiterated numerous times throughout his speech.
One change Michigan residents are hoping for is an upturn in the state’s economy. All the Republican candidates spoke at length in recent campaign events here about their plans to help reverse the fortunes of the state that has the nation’s highest unemployment rate.
Drumm said she thinks Romney is the best candidate to transform Michigan’s economy and help bring it out of a one-state recession.
“The economy is important to anyone looking for a job,” she said. “And I’ll be looking for a job out of college.”