With 2 More Wins, Romney Looks To Super Tuesday

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney picked up two primary victories Tuesday night in Michigan and Arizona. His closest rival was Rick Santorum. All the candidates plan to move on to next week's Super Tuesday when there are 10 nominating contests.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

I'm Renee Montagne.

And next stop, Super Tuesday. For Mitt Romney, the prospect of competing in the 10 states next Tuesday looks a lot better now that he's won both Arizona and Michigan in yesterday's primaries. Romney did not just beat Rick Santorum in Arizona, he beat him by about 20 points and claimed 29 delegates.

GREENE: Still, by far the most-watched contest yesterday was in Michigan where, until last night, Romney was at risk of an embarrassing loss to challenger Rick Santorum. In the end, Romney opened a lead among women voters that allowed him to eke out a victory in Michigan by 3 percentage points.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Ari Shapiro was at Romney headquarters, just outside of Detroit last night, and joins us now to talk about it. Good morning.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Hi, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So, Ari, once again, the scene has changed. The big Santorum move did not get over the top in Michigan. What does that mean for him?

SHAPIRO: Well, nothing out of him quite yet. Look to Ohio. This is another big swing state. In fact, it's the biggest of the 10 states that are voting next Tuesday, on Super Tuesday.

Santorum has been pulling ahead of Romney there for quite a while now, and, you know, beating him in Ohio might not be quite as good as beating Romney in his native state of Michigan, but it could be the next best thing. And there also some other states voting next Tuesday where Santorum might do quite well.

MONTAGNE: And give us a list. What other states are voting Tuesday?

SHAPIRO: Well, let's start with the Southern states. The second biggest of them, in fact the second-biggest state to vote on Super Tuesday, is Georgia. That's where Newt Gingrich was a member of the House representing Georgia. So he's fighting hard there. Santorum is also fighting hard in Georgia. Georgia and Tennessee, both states with large social conservative evangelical populations where Romney may not do so well, as he tends not to with that demographic.

There's also Oklahoma voting on Tuesday, another socially conservative state. And then you've got the very large Southern state of Virginia voting on Tuesday. But that's a state where only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul qualified to compete, which is as you recall, a big blow to Newt Gingrich, who had really hoped to be a serious contender there.

MONTAGNE: Well, what about Ron Paul? Has he got a shot in some of the other states?

SHAPIRO: Yeah, if you look West, there are states like North Dakota, Alaska, Idaho, where Libertarian philosophy like Ron Paul's might do well, although Idaho has a very large Mormon population, so that could tip the state into Mitt Romney's camp.

MONTAGNE: And then let's go back East now, and talk to us about Massachusetts and Vermont.

SHAPIRO: Right. So in the Northeast, you have these states that are classic Romney terrain. It's just like New Hampshire, where Romney won by a large margin. He was obviously governor of Massachusetts. People in Vermont have known Romney for years and years. The campaign is sort of counting on a wide win there, as they saw in New Hampshire back in January.

But Renee, if you put this whole map together, the Southern states, the Western states, the Northeastern states, what you're looking at is a Super Tuesday layout that could be far more fractured among several candidates than the sort of dominate win by John McCain that we saw four years ago in 2008.

MONTAGNE: OK, now let's just go back for a moment to last night's vote. To clear up a little confusion, Arizona had a winner-take-all primary, which is against the new GOP rules because that primary comes too early in the year. So will Mitt Romney, as I just said, get all 29 of the delegates there in Arizona, or not?

SHAPIRO: Well, he will unless the rules are challenged at the convention. If it's very close leading up to the convention - the delegate count - then there could be a challenge and those delegates could get apportioned by shares of the vote. But if Romney continues to have a wide lead, as he does so far in the delegate race, then all 29 of those from Arizona will go to him.

MONTAGNE: And what about Michigan?

SHAPIRO: Well, in Michigan, the two candidates each won roughly half of the 14 congressional districts. They get two delegates for each district they won. And the last two delegates gets split by the statewide vote. So, even though Romney eked out a win in the popular vote, the delegates are going to roughly divided 50/50.

MONTAGNE: And you were at Romney campaign headquarters last night. Obviously Mitt Romney was very, very excited and happy. Generally, though, what was the feeling among his staff and supporters?

SHAPIRO: Well, as you say, excited and happy, but also relieved. One senior staffer from the Romney campaign said to me: I can't wait to get this big Michigan monkey off my back. It was an extremely hard-fought race and they are just thrilled that it's done.

MONTAGNE: Ari, thanks very much.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Ari Shapiro.

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