While it may be hard to believe, Romney has slightly improved on his 2008 Michigan percentage of the vote, and he has received many more votes tonight than he did four years ago. Since there was no “native son” candidate in Arizona running against him, Romney won in a walk by more than 20 points. He has improved over his 2008 Arizona result by 13 points, and his 2008 result was nine points better than Santorum’s. The build-up to tonight’s vote has mostly been a lot of phony drama. There was never any doubt that Romney would win Arizona, and in the last few days it seemed very unlikely that Romney would lose in Michigan. His early-voting advantage made it even less likely (and he held a 50-24% advantage among voters who had decided their vote in 2011), and in the end the most recent late-deciding voters (9%) also went for Romney over Santorum. Four out of ten primary voters backed Romney, which is more or less the same support he had four years ago. Romney will end the night with a significantly larger delegate lead than he had this morning.
According to the exit poll, voters did not endorse the idea that Santorum could use economic issues to compete with Romney. Among voters who named the economy as the most important issue, Santorum lost by 16 points. The next largest group named the budget deficit, and Santorum lost that group by 18 points. In a weird reversal, Santorum led among voters who opposed the Tea Party movement, while Romney narrowly led among supporters and those that claimed to be neutral. Romney continued to dominate among “somewhat conservative” and moderate voters, and predictably lost the “very conservative” vote to Santorum.
Matching the improvement he has shown throughout the nominating contest, Ron Paul managed to double his 2008 percentages in Michigan and Arizona.