Primary Race Close In Romney's Birthplace Of Mich.

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney calls Michigan home, but he's playing catch-up with voters in the state. On Thursday, Romney spoke at a meeting of several local chambers of commerce.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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And I'm Melissa Block. In Michigan, the hometown hero is getting something less than a hero's welcome. Mitt Romney was born in Michigan. His father was a beloved governor and ran a car company, yet with the Michigan primary just over a week away, Rick Santorum is beating Romney in statewide polls.

Both men made campaign appearances near Detroit today. We have two reports now. The first, from NPR's Ari Shapiro with the Romney campaign.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: The good news for Mitt Romney? Today, he picked up the endorsement of Michigan's governor, Rick Snyder.

GOV. RICK SNYDER: He was born and raised a Michigander. He understands our state. He's one of us.

SHAPIRO: The bad news? Romney also had endorsements from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and he lost both those states badly. Romney needs to make sure the same thing doesn't happen in the place he grew up.

MITT ROMNEY: It seems right here. The trees are the right height.

SHAPIRO: At a Chamber of Commerce lunch in a Detroit suburb, Romney talked about his fondness for all things Michigan, including cars.

ROMNEY: I love the auto industry. I want to see it thrive and grow.

SHAPIRO: GM showed some strong signs of growth today. The company reported record annual profits three years after it nearly collapsed. That puts Romney in a difficult position - car lover though he may be. Romney proudly says he did not support giving government money to the U.S. auto industry during the financial crisis. And today, Romney touched on the issue only momentarily.

ROMNEY: I'm glad it went through a managed bankruptcy process - which I recommended from the very beginning - to shed unnecessary costs, and get its footing again. I'm delighted it's profitable.

SHAPIRO: Many economists say the companies could not have gone through managed bankruptcy without first securing government help, since banks were not giving any loans during the worst of the economic crisis.

This lunch event was Romney's crowd - business people and entrepreneurs. Dale Pacynski owns a security company. He says President Obama had nothing to do with GM's health today.

DALE PACYNSKI: The fact that we're coming back, I think, is a natural cycle. It's a natural recovery. We've been through this - I was in the auto industry for many years - we've been through this for the last 30 years, and it always comes back.

SHAPIRO: Just outside the hall, protester Jarren Garza(ph) disagrees strongly. He works at the GM Tech Center.

JARREN GARZA: If we would have done it Mitt's way, I would be unemployed right now.

SHAPIRO: Several guests at the lunch said they're still trying to decide whether to vote for Romney or Rick Santorum. On government aid to car companies, the two men see eye to eye. On other issues, lunch guests may have had a hard time finding grounds to distinguish the men. Though Romney talked a lot about his background and about his differences with President Obama, he did not mention Santorum once.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Farmington Hills, Michigan.

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