Now Reading
Romney dominates Santorum in 2-1 Arizona win
local

From the archive: This story is more than 10 years old.

Republican primary

Romney dominates Santorum in 2-1 Arizona win

  • Romney at the Mesa GOP debate last week.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comRomney at the Mesa GOP debate last week.
  • Arizona CD7 GOP candidate Gabrielle Saucedo Mercer talks to supporters at the Tucson GOP gathering Tuesday.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comArizona CD7 GOP candidate Gabrielle Saucedo Mercer talks to supporters at the Tucson GOP gathering Tuesday.
  • Tucson GOP supporters gathered at Redline Grill at the intersection of North Oracle and West Wetmore roads to watch Mitt Romney win the state's Republican presidential preference election.  As recently as last week Rick Santorum was expected to give Romney a run in Arizona.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comTucson GOP supporters gathered at Redline Grill at the intersection of North Oracle and West Wetmore roads to watch Mitt Romney win the state's Republican presidential preference election. As recently as last week Rick Santorum was expected to give Romney a run in Arizona.
  • Tucson Republicans watch election returns Tuesday.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comTucson Republicans watch election returns Tuesday.
  • GOP Pima County Sheriff candidate Walt Setzer addresses the approximately 60 people gathered at Redline Grill waiting for Presidential primary results.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comGOP Pima County Sheriff candidate Walt Setzer addresses the approximately 60 people gathered at Redline Grill waiting for Presidential primary results.
  • Arizona CD7 GOP candidate Gabrielle Saucedo Mercer, left, talks to Pima County Sheriff candidate Walt Setzer.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comArizona CD7 GOP candidate Gabrielle Saucedo Mercer, left, talks to Pima County Sheriff candidate Walt Setzer.
  • Arizona CD8/CD2 GOP candidate Frank Antenori talks to CD7 candidate Gabrille Saucedo Mercer.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comArizona CD8/CD2 GOP candidate Frank Antenori talks to CD7 candidate Gabrille Saucedo Mercer.
  • Christine and John Heimbarger await primary results.  Both have followed Romney across the country during the primaries.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comChristine and John Heimbarger await primary results. Both have followed Romney across the country during the primaries.
  • Jim Ellars, a Gingrich supporter, watches Arizona primary results come in.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comJim Ellars, a Gingrich supporter, watches Arizona primary results come in.
  • Tucson GOP supporters gathered at Redline Grill at the intersection of North Oracle and West Wetmore roads to watch Mitt Romney win the state's Republican presidential preference election.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comTucson GOP supporters gathered at Redline Grill at the intersection of North Oracle and West Wetmore roads to watch Mitt Romney win the state's Republican presidential preference election.
  • John Heimbarger, left, and David Hoefferle applaud Romney's victory speech televised from Michigan.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comJohn Heimbarger, left, and David Hoefferle applaud Romney's victory speech televised from Michigan.
  • Attendees at the Maricopa County GOP viewing party in Phoenix celebrate Mitt Romney’s victory.
    Sara Smith/Cronkite News ServiceAttendees at the Maricopa County GOP viewing party in Phoenix celebrate Mitt Romney’s victory.
  • Attendees await results of Arizona’s Republican presidential primary at a Maricopa County GOP viewing party in Phoenix.
    Sara Smith/Cronkite News ServiceAttendees await results of Arizona’s Republican presidential primary at a Maricopa County GOP viewing party in Phoenix.

Despite a late surge by Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney swept to victory in the Arizona Republican primary, with the former Massachusetts governor beating the ex-senator from Pennsylvania by a nearly 2-1 margin.

With 100 percent of the vote counted, Romney led the Arizona Republican primary with 47 percent of the vote, while Rick Santorum trailed with 27 percent.

Romney also won in Michigan, where he was up 41-38 with 82 percent of the vote counted there.

(see below for complete results)

Coupled with his win in Michigan, where he was born and raised, Romney’s Arizona victory helped provide a much-needed check to Santorum’s recent momentum, and a a boost going into next week’s Super Tuesday primaries.

Speaking to supporters in Michigan after the polls closed (see video), Romney offered thanks to his Arizona backers.

"A special thank you to Gov. Jan Brewer and Sen. John McCain," Romney said. "They were tireless. Particularly John McCain, He's been all over the country helping. What a hero."

In Pima County, Romney held a 44-30 percent lead over Santorum with 100 percent of the vote counted. A count of early ballots showed Romney leading Santorum 45-27 percent in the county.

Statewide, Newt Gingrich had 16 percent of the vote, while Ron Paul had 8 percent.

Moments after polls closed at 7 p.m., multiple news agencies — including the Associated Press, CNN and MSNBC — called the vote for Romney based on exit polls.

Romney's victory in Arizona gives him all of the state's 29 delegates to the Republican national convention. He now has 152, not counting any to be apportioned in Michigan, with Santorum at 72, Gingrich at 32 and Paul at 19 delegates. 1,144 are needed to win the GOP nomination.

"We didn't win by a lot, but we won by enough," Romney said of his Michigan victory.

"This campaign is about saving the soul of America," Romney told a Michigan crowd. "This election comes down to two very different visions of America: The choice of becoming a nation of and by Washington or remaining a nation of and by a free people."

Maricopa County GOP Chairman Tom Morrissey said Arizona endorsed the candidate best positioned to triumph in November.

“What can he do? Win,” Morrissey said at a party gathering. “Defeat Barack Obama, and that is our greatest motivator.”

Luis Heredia, the executive director of the state Democratic Party, blasted Romney in a press release after the polls closed.

"By pandering to the Tea Party and some of the most divisive politicians in the nation, Romney has alienated the voters he needs in November’s general election, including Arizona independents, moderates, and the Latino community," he said.

In unofficial returns, Romney led Santorum by a margin of nearly 2-1, with Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul trailing.

Romney had a comfortable polling lead in Arizona over Santorum, even as the ex-senator caught a bump in surveys in recent days.

Monday, a pollster said Romney was "headed for a blow out win" in the state. His lead over Santorum in Arizona was so wide that Public Policy Polling abandoned its plans for a two-night survey.

Santorum and Romney were neck-and-neck in voter surveys in Michigan, which also voted Tuesday.

Stephen Nuño, an assistant professor with Northern Arizona University's Department of Politics and International Affairs, said winning handily in Arizona gives Romney more clout in Super Tuesday states where immigration is an issue.

"For Romney to win Arizona pretty much solidifies his anti-immigration stance," he said. "If you can convince Arizona that you're anti-immigrant, I don't know what other argument you need."

The latest polls showed Romney with a solid lead here, and his campaign benefited from endorsements by McCain, and, on Sunday, Brewer.

Political experts said Romney had a stronger organization here than the other candidates, in part because of his 2008 campaign for the GOP nomination in which he placed second in Arizona behind McCain. They said he also had strong support from the state's sizable Mormon population.

Kim Fridkin, a professor in Arizona State University's School of Politics and Global Studies, said the media's attention to Michigan's significance overshadowed Arizona's primary.

"I don't think it's going to really help him that much, but a loss here definitely would hurt his campaign," she said.

Romney led all presidential candidates, including President Barack Obama, with $1.1 million in donations from Arizonans through the end of January. Top rival Santorum had received $46,000.

Bolstered by victories in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri and polls showing a tightening race here, Santorum made a late push for Arizona support. He attended rallies in Phoenix and Tucson before a Feb. 22 debate that brought all four candidates to Mesa.

The Green Party also held its presidential primary here Tuesday. Front-runner Jill Stein held a sizable lead.

Bolstered by victories in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri and polls showing a tightening race here, Santorum made a late push for Arizona support. He attended rallies in Phoenix and Tucson before a Feb. 22 debate in Mesa.

Arizona's overall turnout was expected to be light.

Over half of state Republicans voted in the 2008 primary, but this year's turnout was about 38 percent — that despite the spotlight last week's debate in Mesa brought to the race.

In Pima County, 47 percent of Republicans cast primary ballots. Over 50,000 of the 85,000 early ballots sent out by Pima County were returned by Monday, but only 68,000 total votes were cast here.

While most attention has focused on the GOP frontrunners, there were 23 Republicans on that party's ballot, and six on the list of Green candidates:

Primary election returns

100 percent reporting.

Republicans

Candidate Percent Votes
Frontrunners
Gingrich, Newt 16.16% 74,110
Paul, Ron 8.45% 38,753
Romney, Mitt 47.27% 216,805
Santorum, Rick 26.62% 122,088
The field
Benjamin, Donald 0.05% 207
Terr, Jim 0.01% 57
Bollander, Simon 0.01% 53
Perry, Al 'Dick' 0.06% 288
Zack, Ronald 0.03% 142
Sims, Paul 0.11% 489
Callahan, Mark 0.07% 326
Cisneros, Cesar 0.09% 398
Lynch, Frank 0.02% 101
Skelley, Charles 0.01% 53
Arnett, Wayne Charles 0.02% 90
Gonzales, Sarah 0.32% 1,460
Perry, Rick 0.41% 1,871
Perkins, Raymond Scott 0.02% 85
Welch, Matt 0.02% 78
Dean, Kip 0.04% 189
Hill, Christopher 0.03% 129
Roemer, Buddy 0.14% 657
Levinson, Michael 0.04% 202

Greens

Candidate Percent Votes
Stein, Jill 69.17% 350
Swing, Gary 5.93% 30
Oatman, Michael 7.31% 37
Mesplay, Kent 7.91% 40
Grayson, Richard 6.92% 35
Davis, Gerard 2.77% 14

Earlier

While many have already voted by mail, if you want to cast a ballot in person, make sure you're going to the right place. Nearly half of Pima County's normal polling places were not opened Tuesday; the state is paying for the primary and wouldn't fund them all. Check with the Pima County Recorder's Office to see where you should vote.

If you still have an early ballot, don't mail it; it won't be received in time to count. Instead, turn it in at any polling place or at one of the recorder's offices at 115 N. Church Ave. and 6920 E. Broadway.

Nearly 48,000 of the 85,000 GOP ballots sent out have been counted. Those totals will be released along with the day's votes around 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Eligible to vote in the primary are Pima County's 149,000 Republicans and 1,200 Greens. Independents cannot vote in the presidential primary.

Cronkite News Service’s Sara Smith contributed to this report.


— 30 —

Best in Internet Exploder