Romney wins Michigan, Arizona primaries
Washington - US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney set the stage for next week's "Super Tuesday" voting in 10 states with victories in Republican primaries in Michigan and Arizona.
With 87% of precincts reporting results in Michigan, Romney was at 41% with Rick Santorum at 38%. Congressman Ron Paul received 12% of the votes, and former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich was at 7%.
The Great Lakes state has 30 presidential convention delegates. The winner in each of Michigan's 14 congressional districts wins two delegates with two more delegates going to the state-wide winner.
In the south-western state of Arizona, which follows a winner-take-all formula for its 29 delegates, Romney had 48% to Santorum's 26%, with 55% of the vote counted. Gingrich was at 17% with Paul at 8%.
Tough challenge from Santorum
Romney, 64, the former governor of Massachusetts, grew up in Michigan, where his father once served as governor, but spent his adult life away from his native state.
The tough challenge from Santorum, a former US senator from nearby Pennsylvania, which like Michigan has an economic base of heavy industry and is demographically similar, threatened to embarrass Romney in a state that he was once expected to win easily.
"What a win! This is a big night," Romney told a victory rally in Michigan. "We didn't win by a lot, but we won by enough."
He said it was "particularly special" to win in his native state, reminding supporters that a week earlier he had been trailing Santorum in Michigan surveys.
Santorum leapt to prominence as the social-conservative rival to the front-running Romney after winning non-binding contests on February 7 among Republicans in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado.
With Arizona's winner-take-all apportionment, Romney was assured of continuing to build his lead in the decisive count of voting delegates at the conservative party's August nominating convention.
Even if Michigan's individual congressional districts do not deliver a majority of the state's delegates to Romney, Tuesday's outcome constitutes a perception of victory heading into Super Tuesday on March 6. Santorum's surprise sweep earlier in the month had tarnished Romney's image as the frontrunner.
The Republican nominee would challenge President Barack Obama, who is unopposed for re-nomination by the Democratic Party in the November general elections.
Romney said that he would be repeating a new slogan in the coming weeks: "More jobs, less debt, smaller government."
He criticised Obama's policies for failing to spark a stronger economic recovery from the painful 2008-09 recession, while running deficits of more than 1 trillion dollars a year.
Romney reiterated the "basic promise" of US society that each generation lives better than its parents.
"Our campaign is about more than replacing a president," Romney said. "It's about restoring America's promise."