Mitt Romney’s bid to be the next Republican candidate for president flared back to life Tuesday as he won the primary in his native state of Michigan. Romney received 39% of the vote, a wide margin over the New Hampshire primary winner John McCain (30%), and Mike Huckabee (16%), who had topped the Iowa caucuses.
Romney ran very strong in the Detroit metropolitan area, pulling in 45 percent of the vote compared to McCain’s 26 percent and gaining a nearly 70,000-vote advantage around the Motor City.
McCain made up some ground outside Detroit but failed to put together a majority in any part of the state except the Upper Peninsula. In this region, the state’s most rural, McCain won 14 of 15 counties and beat Romney by 9 percentage points.
McCain also performed well in the rural counties of Western Michigan, but Romney made up the difference in metropolitan Grand Rapids, Holland, and Grand Haven.
Though Romney ran better in urban Michigan than he did in rural parts of the state — taking 41% of the city vote, 35% in smaller communities — he beat all his Republican competitors in rural Michigan, too. The former Massachusetts governor pulled in nearly 8000 more rural Michigan voters than did his closest rival, Arizona Sen. John McCain. Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, drew 18% of the rural vote in Michigan.
The Democratic campaigns for the most part steered away from Michigan. The national Democratic Party announced in December that Michigan would be stripped of its presidential convention delegates because state party officials chose to move the Michigan primary up to January 15, in defiance of the national organization. John Edwards and Barack Obama, complying with a request from the national office, withdrew their names from the Michigan primary ballot.
The Democratic primary took place nonetheless, and Hillary Clinton won with 55% of the vote. Clinton did especially well in rural Michigan, where she drew 63% of the vote. Yet 40% of Democrats voted “Uncommitted” (presumably supporters of Obama and Edwards); 32% of rural voters were Uncommitted.
With a dubious contest on the Democratic side and heavy weather in much of the state, voter turnouts in Michigan were not as strong as in the recent New Hampshire and Iowa races.
In fact, election stories in both the Lapeer County Press and the Allegan News led not with totals from the presidential primaries but reports on local sewer referendums. “Thank God,” Lapeer Supervisor Eldon Card told the County Press, after a 679 to 441 vote to extend water and sewer service to Oregon Township. “We can move on.”
In Allegan County, the vote was 2-1 against extending sewer lines and building a new wastewater facility. Disappointed, Cheshire Township supervisor Troy Tooker told the local paper, “We wanted residents of the township to make the decision. Obviously they spoke. I’m glad we let it go to the people, and they made the decision.””¨
Meanwhile, Romney had won Lapeer County, just east of Flint; McCain won by 71 votes in Allegan County, western Michigan.