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UPDATED: Romney Ekes Out Michigan Win, But Santorum Expects Tie in Delegate Count

Romney claimed victory in his must-win native state of Michigan, but as a weakened candidate with a narrow margin. Arizona was kinder to him.

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This all came on top of the unearthing, by Right Wing Watch, of a 2008 Santorum speech in which he said Satan had set his sights on the United States, having already destroyed its education system through liberal teaching, and made the mainline Protestant denominations into something “outside of Christianity.” Santorum’s personal opposition to birth control, which he said was “ harmful to women,” was also a topic of much discussion. And Santorum’s famous 2003 comparison of gay sex to bestiality often finds its way into any discourse on his views.

Yet, despite all that, he almost all but ended Romney’s once “ inevitable” romp to the nomination, as chatter in the upper echelons of the Republican party turned to the search for an alternative candidate to Romney should Santorum win Michigan.

Romney made his own series of gaffes, though none so strange as Santorum's claims, and more often simply insensitive to his position in the top 1 percent of income earners. While expressing his love for American cars, he revealed that he and his wife had four, including the "couple of Cadillacs" his wife drives. When asked a question about NASCAR racing, Romney averred that he didn't follow it closely, but has "some great friends who are NASCAR team-owners."

As voting got underway in Arizona and Michigan, Romney lashed out at Santorum for his "incendiary" rhetoric. From the Washington Post:

"It’s very easy to excite the base with incendiary comments,” he told reporters. “We’ve seen throughout the campaign that if you’re willing to say really outrageous things that are accusatory and attacking President Obama, that you’re going to jump up in the polls. You know, I’m not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support."

This was the same Mitt Romney who, in his speech after his Florida primary win, said that Obama "demonizes and denigrates almost every sector of our economy."

After his Michigan win was secured, as if to prove his weakness, Romney delivered a forgettable victory speech (video on last page of this article), full of platitudes about America's greatness, and the usual right-wing themes: a promise to repeal "Obamacare" (which has much in common with the health-care plan Romney implemented in Massachusetts when he was governor there), excoriation of Obama for suspending the Keystone oil pipeline that would run from Canada to Texas, and a vague promise to create jobs.

He reiterated his claim that the 2012 campaign is a battle "for the soul of America," but it's a hard case to make by a speaker who comes across as so lacking in soulfulness.

Santorum Gets An Assist From Dems

Santorum's close second to Romney's photo finish, though, may speak less to his own strengths than to Romney's weakness, including a contempt held for him by many in the state's workforce in the automotive industry, which is centered around Detroit. A contingent of Democrats even played a monkey-wrenching game, voting for Santorum in Michigan's open primary with the hope of depriving Romney of a win. The Detroit Free Press reported that Democrats were voting " in droves" for Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul, and Public Policy Polling estimated that Democrats comprised 8 percent of Michigan's Republican primary vote.

Romney opposed the government bailout of the U.S. auto industry, which most believe saved the three major automakers -- General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. (The "bailout" was actually a loan program; Ford has already repaid its debt to the taxpayers in full, and all of the companies have been restored to profitability.) Yet Romney, who himself has made millions in buying and dismantling of companies, supported the government bailout of Wall Street firms. As the son of an auto executive -- his father ran American Motors, and, in fact, was credited with saving the company in the 1950s -- Romney was seen by many as a turncoat.

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