Tuesday's pair of victories in the Republican primaries in Michigan and Arizona will likely give former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney a much needed boost in his quest to claim the GOP nomination for president.
Romney has seen his status as front runner questioned by a series of insurgent rivals who have subsequently fallen short.
He nevertheless scored a commanding victory in Arizona, winning 47.3 percent of the vote, more than 20 points better than the most recent of his emergent rivals, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who won 26.6 percent.
Santorum fared better in Michigan, winning 37.9 percent to Romney's 41.1 percent in a state he contested more closely than Arizona.
But for the Romney campaign a win, even a narrow one, in a state where the candidate was born and whose father served as governor, is a win - especially given Romney's recent gaffe about how he has several cars and his wife drives "a couple of Cadillacs," which put him in danger of seeming out of touch with working class voters.
Santorum had also stumbled verbally leading up to the Michigan and Arizona votes, calling the President Obama's initiative to increase levels of higher education snobby and with comments many saw as offensive to working women.
The narrow margin in Michigan's proportional primary - as opposed to the winner-take-all contest in Arizona - means that Santorum will gain almost as many (if not the same number) of delegates for the Republican National Convention as Romney.
In fact, the Susan B. Anthony List, a group backing Santorum for his staunch pro-life positions, claimed Michigan's results as a moral victory for the former Pennsylvania Senator, noting that he had been heavily outspent in the state.
For Santorum to have even a remotely plausible path to the ultimate nomination he will need to win at least several of the crucial "Super Tuesday" states voting on March 6th, and his speech Tuesday seemed aimed at retooling his message to appeal more to blue collar working Republicans rather than the staunch social conservatives that have made up his base.
As seemed likely heading into Tuesday's contests, the results will likely mark, at least, the beginning of the end of the candidacy of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich, who placed a distant third in Arizona with 16.2 percent and an even more distant fourth in Michigan at just 6.5 percent, was once considered a leading contender for the nomination.
However, Gingrich, whose strong debate performances propelled him to the lead some national polls, will have no further opportunities to capitalize on that strength before Super Tuesday, and lacking the traditional campaign organization and fundraising power of the other candidates, it seems unlikely he will be able to bounce back yet again.
by RTT Staff Writer
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