With Michigan Settled, Candidates Look South Melissa Block talks to Don Gonyea from Romney campaign headquarters in Michigan; David Greene from McCain headquarters in Michigan; and Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review , who says that Romney's solid victory in Michigan is impressive because he was behind when he went into the race.
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With Michigan Settled, Candidates Look South

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With Michigan Settled, Candidates Look South

With Michigan Settled, Candidates Look South

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


I'm Melissa Block.

And Mitt Romney is the winner of Michigan's Republican primary. A few minutes ago, Romney addressed his supporters at his Detroit campaign headquarters.

Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Republican, Former Massachusetts Governor; Presidential Candidate): Tonight marks the beginning of a comeback - a comeback for America.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ROMNEY: You know, only a week ago, a (unintelligible) like it was impossible but then you got out and told America what they needed to hear.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ROMNEY: You said we would fight for every job; you said you'd fight for us to be able to get lower taxes from middle-income Americans; and Michigan heard and Michigan voted tonight. Congratulations…

(Soundbite of applause)

BLOCK: For Romney, this is a much needed victory after disappointments in New Hampshire and before that, in Iowa. John McCain came in second behind Romney. He'd already left Michigan before the results and a few moments ago, he spoke to his supporters in Charleston, South Carolina.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Democrat, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): My friends, for a minute there, in New Hampshire, I thought this campaign might be getting me (unintelligible)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. McCAIN: But you know what? We've gotten pretty good at doing things the hard way, too, and I think we've shown them we don't mind a fight. We don't mind a fight and we're ready.

(Soundbite of applause)

BLOCK: So, Mitt Romney, first in Michigan, John McCain, second and Mike Huckabee, third. We're going to go now to the Mitt Romney and John McCain campaigns. First, to Don Gonyea, who is at Romney campaign headquarters in Detroit.

And Don, that message from Mitt Romney - very big smile on his face tonight.

DON GONYEA: And a bit uncharacteristic for Mitt Romney. He was in his shirt and sleeves, and his hair, which is always perfect, was must. It was kind of dangling about the rear forehead. I don't think he…

BLOCK: He had to happen, right, Don?

GONYEA: Yes. I see it half a minute. It took a wait in Michigan to do it. But the other thing is watching him recall that from the beginning, you know, Mitt Romney was a very well-funded candidate and he expected to win Iowa. He was going to nail things down in New Hampshire with a win there. And then with a win in Michigan really go to the south with a sense of him being the guy to beat - the inevitable candidate. Instead, he lost the first two in Iowa and New Hampshire. And Michigan is the place rather really kind of sending him on his way, really allows him to leave to fight another day. It's a win he needed. And you could see the relief on his face. He was almost as relieved as he was happy with this win as he was addressing his supporters here.

BLOCK: Mitt Romney said in that victory speech tonight - there's no way an insider or (unintelligible) Washington inside-out and that does seem to be aligned - targeted directly at John McCain.

GONYEA: Absolutely. Absolutely. And he also talked about how he is kind of overcome the, you know, the divisive politics - again, kind of a shot at the, you know, increasingly, you have bitter battle that was raging between him and McCain. They clashed over the economy here more than anything else. Of course, Michigan's unemployment rate is 7.4 percent that is by far, the worst jobless rate here in the country well above the national average.

And Romney tonight, in his speech, talked about his victory being a victory for optimism. And it is true. He talked about the troubled domestic automobile industry. But said, having been born here, you know, being the son of the father who was an automobile executive that he had the auto industry in Michigan in his DNA, that he's the guy to really turn things around. And he said, those jobs that are lost will come back, calling John McCain, a pessimist when McCain talked about, you know, talking straight with people, telling them that those jobs are not coming back but that retraining and education and those things are needed to help displaced workers.

BLOCK: Okay, Don, thanks so much. Don Gonyea at Romney campaign headquarters in Detroit. And now, to John McCain headquarters in South Carolina, and David Greene. NPR's David Greene, tell us more about what John McCain had to say tonight.

DAVID GREENE: What did you hear, Melissa, about John McCain was talking about he has hoped, which was that he could carry some of this momentum that he got in New Hampshire into Michigan? It was not to be, he said, he's ready for a fight. And I think the message he was sending supporters tonight was that it had been hard for him. I mean, there were points in the summer when people basically proclaimed his campaign all but dead, no money, been seen to be going anywhere - he came back, he got the win in New Hampshire, and so I think the message is stick with him. And he said that he's ready for a big fight in South Carolina.

Now, listening to his speech, he congratulated Romney. He was very polite but he also made clear that Michigan had chosen its native son, and that's the message from a lot of McCain's people today that if Mitt Romney couldn't win in Michigan, where could he win.

BLOCK: Right. Of course, Mitt Romney, born and raised in Michigan, his father was a governor there for quite sometime. Okay. NPR's David Greene with John McCain in South Carolina.

We're going to turn now to NPR senior political editor Ron Elving.

And Ron, important to note now that at this point, we've got three winners in three different states.

RON ELVING: Yes. The Republicans are passing it around a little bit like the college football teams pass around the number one rating last fall. So, when it is one gets on top, that one comes tumbling down immediately.

BLOCK: What do you think shapes up from here in terms of the campaign and how these candidates target voters in the states that are coming up - Nevada, South Carolina - immediately.

ELVING: Nevada and South Carolina for the Republicans come up on Saturday. And for the Republicans, the stakes are much higher in South Carolina. Nevada, of course, they'd love to win. It looks like Romney is probably going to. But South Carolina has been really the king maker for Republicans in presidential politics ever since 1980, and Ronald Reagan winning there. Ever since then, whoever wins in South Carolina has gone on to sweep the South. And by sweeping the South, secure the nomination on the Republican side. So, that's the one everyone would like to win. And people are going to come out of the woodwork and vote in that primary that have not really been registered yet in this Republican contest, so where going to see Mike Huckabee be competitive. We're going to see Fred Thompson make his desperate choice. He's really going to have to win there if he's going to be a factor in Florida and beyond. We're going to see everyone playing there who has won any kind of an event up to now. And so we'll have four or five candidates to watch - maybe six.

BLOCK: Okay. NPR's senior political editor Ron Elving, thanks a lot.

ELVING: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: And we're joined now by Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review.

And Rich, it looks like Mitt Romney has about 31 or 32 percent of the vote, candidates about a 39 to 30 percent lead, a victory margin over John McCain. How do you interpret that margin?

Mr. RICH LOWRY (Editor, National Review): Well, it's a pretty solid victory. And it's pretty impressive in that Romney went into this race behind after losing New Hampshire, after losing Iowa, and the question was whether he could come back. He had to try to come back in Iowa, and Huckabee had a big lead, fell short. He had to comeback in Ne Hampshire because McCain, you know, sprinted ahead after Romney lost to Iowa fell short. And this time, he really did come back and, you know, the cliche around politics now is anyone who in wins a primary after losing one before is found his or her voice. But I do think there's something to that with Romney tonight. You know, he was much more comfortable in Michigan where his family obviously has a strong background and he was very comfortable talking about the economy where he has a natural credibility as a former business leader.

BLOCK: Rich, does it strike you that Mitt Romney has a message that would appeal nationwide to Christian conservatives and the conservative base of the Republican Party.

Mr. LOWRY: Well, there's been some resistance to him among…

BLOCK: A lot of resistance. Yeah.

Mr. LOWRY: …locals, and (unintelligible) look at the exit polls from tonight. But if you look at Iowa, New Hampshire, Christians who said a candidate's religious beliefs were very important to them, just don't vote for Mitt Romney, and that's going to be a problem for him in South Carolina. And I think the Romney campaign is probably, as we speak, making some very difficult decisions about how seriously they're going to compete over the next few days in South Carolina as (unintelligible) there and finishes third or so a disappointing finish, well, then, if that could have hurt him going into Florida, it might make sense just to skip it. Let McCain and Huckabee and Thompson fight it out and hopeful bruise each other somewhat and just take a pass and go straight onto Florida.

BLOCK: Okay. Rich, thanks so much. That's Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, talking about Mitt Romney's victory in the Michigan Republican primary. Again, John McCain coming in second, Mike Huckabee, third, and on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton, the winner and a race that only her name as a major candidate on the ballot. Barack Obama and John Edwards were not.

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