Romney Hopes 'Native Son' Status Will Help In Mich.

Michigan holds its Republican primary on Tuesday. Though Mitt Romney has a home-state advantage, the former Massachusetts governor has been locked in a tight battle with former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

And we begin this hour with the race for the Republican presidential nomination one day before Michigan and the Arizona vote. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have been pouring almost all of their energy into Michigan. That's not just because Romney has a double-digit lead in Arizona.

SIEGEL: It's also because Michigan is the state where Romney was born and raised. If Santorum pulls of an upset there, it could turn this race on its head. Today, both men had a day full of events across the state.

And we have two reports now beginning with NPR's Ari Shapiro, who's traveling with the Romney campaign.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: These last few weeks have been the longest stretch of the campaign without a statewide primary or caucus since Iowa voted in the beginning of January. Yet, the campaigning has barely let up for a minute. Mitt Romney's final Michigan sprint began in the town of Rockford, just outside Grand Rapids.

MITT ROMNEY: I sure have enjoyed being able to go across Michigan these last several days, coming back and seeing familiar places and familiar people.

SHAPIRO: He has relentlessly hammered the native son narrative at every event in the state. Yet, at this office electronics company, undecided voter Ed Garcia finds the argument unpersuasive.

ED GARCIA: If he would've cared so much about Michigan, he would've run for governor of Michigan instead of Massachusetts.

SHAPIRO: But for Steve Batchelder, the local roots make the difference.

STEVE BATCHELDER: It affects you a little bit. I would certainly vote for Romney because I live in Michigan. So, yeah, my wife and I have talked about it and Romney is tomorrow, Tuesday.

SHAPIRO: He thinks Rick Santorum's a good guy, just a bit tainted by politics. A few minutes later, Romney used almost that exact language from the stage.

ROMNEY: Senator Santorum's a nice guy, but he's never had a job in the private sector. He's worked as a lobbyist and worked as an elected official. That's fine. But if the issue of the day is the economy, I think to create jobs, it helps to have a guy as president who's had a job and I have.

SHAPIRO: Actually, Santorum did briefly work as a lawyer in Pittsburg. Santorum helped insure that the economy is the issue of this day. He wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal accusing Romney of coming late to conservative economic principles. Romney said he's eager to have that argument with Santorum.

ROMNEY: I've spent 25 years in business. I understand why jobs go, why they come. I understand what happens to corporate profit, where it goes if the government takes it. This is what I've done throughout my life.

SHAPIRO: Romney wrapped up with a get out and vote message.

ROMNEY: Back in my state, we'd say vote early and vote often.

SHAPIRO: By my state, Romney means Massachusetts. But he hopes that tomorrow night, Michigan will be his state, too.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Rockford, Michigan.

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