Mich. Prospects Looking Up For Romney

Michigan holds its Republican primary on Tuesday. The former Massachusetts governor and Michigan native Mitt Romney has been touring the state in search of votes. A week ago, Rick Santorum held a double-digit lead in the polls. Now, NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, Romney seems to have closed the gap.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

The Republican race for president heads to Michigan and Arizona this week. Both states hold primaries on Tuesday. Former Governor Mitt Romney was in Michigan yesterday, his campaign bus logging more than 250 miles across the state. He's fighting the recent surge of former Senator Rick Santorum.

Romney held three events in three towns - Lansing, Troy and Flint - and NPR's Ari Shapiro was with him at all three stops.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Mitt Romney's father is a legend here in Michigan, so the candidate tells at least one family story at every event in the state. Yesterday, the anecdotes multiplied.

(SOUNDBITE OF STUMP SPEECH)

MITT ROMNEY: He wasn't always right, but he always thought he was right. And he had...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: At a breakfast event in Lansing, Romney talked about the hospital where he was born, the school where he went to kindergarten, his father's gubernatorial campaign, and Dad's inauguration on a snowy day like this one.

(SOUNDBITE OF STUMP SPEECH)

ROMNEY: And as I recall, they'd also just changed the slogan of the state. It used to be Water Wonderland. Remember, on the license plates? It said Water Wonderland. They changed it to Winter Water Wonderland. Now, it was hard just to say it, but to get it on a license plate proved to be impossible, all right?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: Romney seemed relaxed and breezy. Things are looking better for him than they were a week ago. Back then, Rick Santorum held a double-digit lead in polls. Now, Romney seems to have closed the gap. It's partly because of his aggressive attacks on Santorum during Wednesday's debate in Arizona, and a nonstop barrage of TV ads by the superPAC supporting him. Romney continued the assault yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF STUMP SPEECH)

ROMNEY: I think Senator Santorum wishes he could take back what he said. He talked about how he voted for some things because he took one for the team. The team has got to be the people of America, not partisanship. And...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SHAPIRO: Later, at a lunchtime event in Troy, the attack was even sharper.

(SOUNDBITE OF STUMP SPEECH)

ROMNEY: I can attest for my conservative credentials by quoting someone who endorsed me in my 2008 campaign. Senator Santorum was kind enough to say on "The Laura Ingraham Show" - he said: Mitt Romney, this is a guy who is really conservative, and who we can trust.

SHAPIRO: It was not enough to win over construction worker Dan Wrightler.

DAN WRIGHTLER: Romney's moderate tendencies are not - they don't interest me. I'm not interested in somebody who's going out and saying that global warming is this real thing.

SHAPIRO: The whole day had a lighthearted feel. It was easy to overlook the millions of dollars being spent, and that huge national stakes that are on the line. A voter like Brace Case pulls those stakes right back into focus.

BRACE CASE: I'm 74 and still working.

SHAPIRO: He's a big Romney fan who came to the last rally of the day, at a college in Flint.

CASE: We sold our land, our home to a developer. Unfortunately, he couldn't build houses - sell houses once he built it. So we lost our land and our home.

SHAPIRO: It's a sadly typical Michigan story. Case doesn't know whether Romney can fix the problem. But he's willing to give him his vote.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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