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Mitt Romney won the Michigan primary narrowly over Rick Santorum Tuesday, reclaiming some momentum in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

He also won Arizona, by a much bigger margin.

Romney needed to win both, but especially Michigan (where he grew up when his father was governor) to assert his ability to regain his tarnished frontrunner status.

A Santorum win in Michigan would have raised questions about how strong a candidate Romney is within the GOP, and even a narrow defeat may have done so.

Nevertheless, Romney was 2-for-2 last night. Whether that gives him a critical boost heading into 10 "Super Tuesday" primaries March 6 remains an open question.

Empirically, Michigan's 30 delegates to the Republican convention, where the nominee is actually chosen this summer, will be allocated on a proportional basis.

That's in contrast to Romney's victory in Arizona, which was both expected and more thorough, netting him all 29 delegates in that state's winner-take-all primary.

Santorum portrayed his Michigan defeat as better than expected, even after leading in the polls earlier this month, given Romney's financial and territorial edge.

"This was going to be Romney's night. The question was how big. And it wasn't very big," Santorum said, adding that it's a "two-person race right now" with Mitt.

Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich, despite finishing a distant third and fourth Tuesday, have both indicated they are still in this for the long haul to amass delegates.

The Arizona and Michigan primary results, according to Real Clear Politics:

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Arizona hosted the 20th GOP debate of this election cycle last night, and what followed was a wide-ranging discussion of issues ... and a familiar personal slap-fest.

It's all the same, only the names change. Wednesday, it was Rick Santorum in the coveted, yet also unfortunate role of the guy Mitt Romney trains his sights on.

Romney and Santorum clashed over the federal government's power in a high-stakes debate that might have been the last in the roller-coaster campaign.

Ron Paul was Ron Paul, defiantly making the case for liberty and getting far too little screen time. Newt Gingrich? He may have effectively called it quits.

The combative, knock-'em-out Newt was AWOL. Instead, the jovial Uncle Newt was back, playing everyone's wingman (and promising $2.50/gallon gas).

It was like mid-to-late 2011 again as Gingrich the enthusiastic, vigorously nodding candidate who would never speak ill of a fellow Republican resurfaced.

Even with his now-infamous media foil, CNN's John King, as the moderator, too. Go figure. A shift in strategy as he looks for a third comeback? Maybe.

He'd surely take it if it happened. But equally likely is that his moment passed, he knows it, and is looking to mend fences with his rivals and America.

The debate was held in the southwestern state of Arizona six days before primaries there and in Romney's native Michigan, which he loves everything about.

Romney still faces skepticism among Republicans who dislike his shifting stances on issues, but it was Santorum being called a "fake" conservative by Paul.

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Rick Santorum's Colorado and Missouri caucus wins put a nice dent in Mitt Romney's aura of inevitability, but didn't come close to overtaking him in the delegate count.Mitt Romney Picture

On the other hand, he has just 87 of 1,144 delegates needed to win the GOP nomination, with more than 80 percent of the U.S. still awaiting a chance to be heard.

Take away Florida's winner-take-all primary - one of only two such races so far - and his total would be even less impressive. Take a look at the delegate count so far:

Delegates 2/8

The "non-binding" states allow their delegates, or a portion of them, to change their minds regardless of the election results, though they are unlikely to do so.

Some delegates are also "unpledged," meaning they are not tied to election results, which is why not all of the totals in the table above (by Real Clear Politics) add up.

Jon Huntsman won two delegates in New Hampshire, but is no longer in the race. As for the first contest, Iowa, CNN offers a different tabulation altogether.

It's confusing, to say the least, but offers an indication of where things are headed after last night, and looking ahead to the Super Tuesday elections on March 6.

Missouri's primary yesterday was non-official, so it is not included above. That state holds its caucus March 17, at which point delegates will actually be awarded.

Maine's caucuses are a week-long affair, concluding this Sunday. Arizona and Michigan are the next primaries on the Republican schedule, both set for February 28.

Washington votes March 3, with Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio, Alaska, Virginia, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Idaho, Massachusetts and Vermont all casting ballots March 6.

Below is the aggregate and state-by-state popular vote as of today. By this measure, Romney's lead is even less significant, as he's won well under half the votes:

Pop. Vote 2/8

The question remains: Can Santorum, Newt Gingrich and/or Ron Paul mount a serious offensive in the coming weeks that will make this a race beyond March 6?

Right now, it's still wide open, but with hundreds of delegates up for grabs on or before that date, a Romney sweep could finally propel him ahead of the field.

He would still be a long way from clinching the Republican presidential nomination, but from a financial and momentum standpoint, that may be his opponents' last stand.

If no candidate makes it to 1,144 by the end of the primary season this summer, the winner would be brokered/decided at the Republican National Convention.

Wouldn't that be something ...

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Rick Santorum won the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses and a non-binding primary in Missouri on Tuesday night, an unexpected sweep that raised fresh questions about Mitt Romney’s ability to win the Republican presidential nomination.

On the flip side, it may help Romney inadvertently.

With Santorum emerging as competition to Newt Gingrich as the principal alternative to Romney, voters continue to veer among candidates but have not coalesced behind one consistently, often leaving Romney ahead almost by default.

Rick Santorum Pic

Gingrich has won one state, South Carolina. Santorum has now won four, including Iowa. Romney won New Hampshire January 10 and then back-to-back victories in Florida and Nevada that had led to predictions that he was inevitable.

Not so fast.

The results on Tuesday shook the political world, though it is an open question whether they are a momentary embarrassment or a prolonged setback Romney.

Romney goes into the next round of primaries and caucuses much better financed than his opponents in what will be much more of a nationwide campaign.

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Results show Mitt Romney winning the 2012 Nevada caucuses by a sizable margin, giving him his third victory in the race for the GOP presidential nomination.

With 71 percent of precincts reporting, Romney has 47 percent to Newt Gingrich's 23 percent and Ron Paul's 19 percent, with Rick Santorum at 11 percent.

In his victory speech from Las Vegas, Romney made clear that he's looking ahead to the general election, focusing his remarks on President Obama.

"Four years ago candidate Obama came to Nevada promising to help," he said. "Mr. President, Nevada has had enough of your kind of help," he said.

Mitt in NV

"We're not going to settle for a president who tells us it could be worse," he added, trying to downplay recent job gains and the drop in unemployment.

A victory in Nevada leaves Romney primed for what should be a strong month for him: Six more states vote in February, and he won four of them in 2008.

Still, the race is far from over. Not including Nevada's delegates, which will be awarded proportionally, Romney has just 80 of the 1,144 needed at this point.

If someone were to start pulling off some upset wins - not out of the question in this fluid cycle - on or before Super Tuesday (March 6), we could have a race.

The 2012 Nevada caucus results (incomplete):

  1. Mitt Romney: 47% (11,822 votes, 11 delegates)
  2. Newt Gingrich: 23% (5,623, 2 delegates)
  3. Ron Paul: 19% (4,619, 2 delegates)
  4. Rick Santorum: 11% (2,749, 0 delegates)

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Donald Trump endorsed Mitt Romney today in Las Vegas, Nev., contrary to earlier reports that he would get behind Newt Gingrich for the GOP nomination.

"Mitt is tough. He is smart," Trump said, Romney at his side at a Las Vegas hotel bearing his name. "It is my honor, and privilege to endorse Mitt Romney."

Perhaps not coincidentally, Trump's announcement comes two days before the Nevada caucuses, and 10 days before the premiere of Celebrity Apprentice.

Probably more so the latter.

Mitt and Don

While some questioned whether Romney, a clear favorite in Nevada, would even want the endorsement of Trump, the Republican said he was glad to have it.

"It means a great deal to have the endorsement of Mr. Trump," Romney said, referring to the publicity maven the same way contestants on his show do.

Trump told reporters in Las Vegas ahead of the official announcement that he would hit the campaign trail on behalf of the Republican front-runner.

"Well they'd like me to and I'll do as much as I can," Trump said, adding that he would also consider donating to the Super PAC supporting Romney.

Several media outlets, including CBS News, The AP and The New York Times, erroneously reported that Trump would endorse Newt Gingrich instead.

Trump blamed the Gingrich campaign for spreading that word. Referring to the Gingrich campaign, he said: "They put that out. You know that right?"

If so ... what an epic fail by Newt.

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Real estate mogul / professional celebrity Donald Trump plans to endorse former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for president in Las Vegas, Nevada today.

The AP is reporting the endorsement will take place later today.

"He's got great ideas. He's very smart, he's very tough and he is a great debater," Trump said of Gingrich, who hasn't confirmed the report, on Sunday.

It's appropriate for the Donald to make his endorsement in Las Vegas, where he owns a 64-story hotel, and where the Nevada caucuses take place Saturday.

Trump-Newt

It also makes sense for him to endorse Gingrich for the GOP nomination in general, as Newt seems to best embody Trump's pugnacious political style.

It's unclear if Trump's endorsement will do much for Gingrich in Nevada ... or at all.

Gingrich was creamed by Mitt Romney in Florida's primary this Tuesday, and trails big in Nevada as well, though he vows to stay in the Republican race.

Trump's waning influence was on display in December, when he attempted to host a GOP debate, only to be rebuffed by everyone but Rick Santorum and Gingrich.

Still, a high-profile Republican stepping up for Newt in the wake of his recent setback shows that not everyone in the party is ready to coalesce around Mitt.

UPDATE: Or maybe not. Surces close to the Romney campaign claim that the real estate mogul will back the former Massachusetts governor instead!

Stay tuned ...

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Mitt Romney rolled to victory in the Florida primary Tuesday, dispatching Newt Gingrich after his win in South Carolina and reclaiming a dominant position in the GOP race.

The triumph by Romney offered perhaps his first forceful response to the concerns that were raised about his candidacy only 10 days ago ... and throughout the last year.

While there remain plenty of doubters, a 14-point win with no asterisk in the biggest state so far (Romney won all 50 delegates) will resonate more than his past results.

That isn't saying too much, given that he's yet to win a majority in any state (although Florida's delegates were winner-take-all). Nevertheless, he beat Newt convincingly.

W. Mitt Romney

“A competitive primary does not divide us,” Romney told supporters. “It prepares us. And we will win. I stand ready to lead this party and to lead our nation.”

But if the Florida Republican primary results promised to reorder the field, none of Romney's challengers got the memo. Gingrich quickly pledged to fight on.

Gingrich spoke to a crowd in Orlando holding signs reading “46 States to Go,” saying he had a message for those wondering about the future of his 2012 bid.

“We are going to contest every place, and we will win,” said Gingrich, who did not congratulate Romney for his victory, nor did he call him on Tuesday night.

Rick Santorum, who finished third, and Ron Paul, who finished fourth, have also shown no indication that they're dropping out of the race anytime soon.

The next month is relatively light on primaries and caucuses, leading up to the Super Tuesday slate of elections March 6. Nevada and Maine vote Saturday.

The 2012 Florida GOP primary results:

  1. Mitt Romney: 771,842 (46.4%)
  2. Newt Gingrich: 531,294 (31.9%)  
  3. Rick Santorum: 222,248 (13.4%)  
  4. Ron Paul: 116,776 (7.0%)

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As Florida Republican voters head to the polls, Newt Gingrich is already playing defense and lowering expectations while vowing to fight on against Mitt Romney.

Though he cited recent surveys showing him in the hunt in today's primary and said “I think we absolutely can win,” Gingrich seemed resigned to defeat.

He made reference to Romney’s well-financed barrage of attack ads that have blanketed the airwaves and said that Mitt is running “pathetic” campaign.

Newt and Mitt Pic

“You want to know where all the ads came from that you’ve been watching for the last few weeks? That’s your money recycled through Goldman Sachs to Mitt Romney to tell you a bunch of falsehoods, and I don’t use that word lightly,” he said.

“I don’t think you should run for president unless you tell the truth.”

Gingrich noted that the Wall Street Journal and National Review described Romney’s ads against him as false, and questioned the former governor’s character.

“What a pathetic situation to be running for President of the United States ... with nothing positive to say for yourself,” he said. “All you’ve got to do is to try to tear your opponents down so they get to be smaller than you are. That’s the Romney model.”

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Is the fix in for Mitt Romney? Sarah Palin seems to think so, going on an epic Facebook rant against Republicans trying to smack down Newt Gingrich ... but is she even more full of it than the establishment she rails against?

It's true that Republican officials and mainstream media figures do seem to be forcing the argument that Romney is the inevitable GOP nominee, despite the widespread antipathy toward the former Massachusetts governor nationwide.

Palin and Romney

Palin's arguments may be thinner than her melting Alaskan ice caps, however, and her motives are highly questionable aside from making sure Sarah Palin remains a topic of discussion. In that respect, guess we fell for it. Sorry.

In a post this weekend, she attacks the Republican "establishment cannibals" for using "Alinsky" tactics against Newt Gingrich in the run up to the Florida primary.

It's undeniable that Newt's win in South Carolina triggered a backlash against the former House Speaker by Romney supporters bent on blunting his latest surge.

But is the motivation really Gingrich's lack of qualifications? Or simply a desire to stop any sort of uprising from those looking for an alternative to the status quo?

Palin's main objection appears to be that those who question Gingrich's ties to Ronald Reagan have done so inappropriately and are doing the work of the left.

Never mind that Gingrich has tied himself to Reagan and his accomplishments with every other breath he takes. And who is the GOP "establishment," anyway?

How do you rant against people without specifying who you are talking about? And why not just endorse Newt if you feel so strongly about it? It's all puzzling.

Palin's full Facebook post appears after the jump:

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Mitt Romney Biography

Mitt Romney Picture Mitt Romney wants to be elected President in 2012. The former Governor of Massachuetts is challenging Barack Obama for that lofty... More »
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Willard Mitt Romney
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