Who Won the Michigan Republican Primary? Mitt Romney Wins, Rick Santorum Second, Ron Paul Last

Tuesday’s Michigan Republican primary is being seen as the most pivotal moment so far in the wider GOP presidential race. Below are bullet points, data points, and every blurb you need to know to stay updated on this race. Updates will also be made as they come in.

10:17 p.m. ROMNEY WINS MICHIGAN PRIMARY. Romney notches 41% of the vote to Santorum's 37%.

Santorum addresses supporters in a concession speech: "A month ago they didn't know who we are, but they do now!" Rick Santorum says as he opens.

10:15 p.m. With 70% of polls reporting, Romney is up 42% to 37%.

Santorum falling apart? From NPR's Don Gonyea: "Santorum crowd's hope for knock-out punch in MI fading as incoming vote totals now trending wrong way for them."

Here's how the AP is characterizing the race in Michigan: "Mitt Romney ... is pulling ahead of Rick Santorum." 

Cute: "I can't wait to get this big Michigan monkey off my back," a Mitt Romney campaign staffer just said at the candidate's primary night headquarters in Novi, NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

9:52 p.m. With over 50% of polls reporting, Romney leads with 41% of the vote and 212,244 votes. Santorum has 38% and 191,992 votes.

Delegate estimates to date: Romney - 156, Gingrich - 38, Santorum - 37, Paul - 27.

9:30 p.m. Romney Winning: With 35% of polls reporting, Romney leads Santorum 41% to 38%.

Romney Loses: Romney is in the lead, but as Talking Points Memo explains, Michigan is a catch 22 for Romney. "Headlines like Romney barely wins home state will not be doing him any favors. In the same way, as both Republicans and Democrats have commented, Rick Santorum may lose Michigan, but in a sense he’s already won by coming this close."

9:05 p.m. With 19% of polls reporting, Romney has taken a lead with 41% of the vote, compared to Santorum's 39%.

Will Operation Hilarity and Democrats be more of a factor tonight? It's not looking like that. Democrats may have been around 10% of all of today's votes, but that wanes in comparison to the 2000 primaries, when 17% of voters in the GOP contest were Republican. The founder of the Daily Kos launched "Operation Hilarity" two weeks ago to ensure President Obama gets re-elected. 

8:30 p.m. Polls are now closed. With 1% of polls reporting, Santorum is on top, with 3,622 votes and 41% of the vote. Romney has 3,162 and 36% of the vote.

8:15 p.m. It's the economy stupid: According to exit polls, about 1 in 3 Michigan voters said they or someone in their household had lost a job in the last three years. The economy was most frequently cited as voters' top issue.

7:50 p.m. From PolicyMic pundit David Shane in East Lansing: "Today was rather uninteresting in regards (to the primaries). I went, I voted, I was the only one there. Didn't see anyone holding signs, didn't receive any phone calls even.

7:40 p.m. Gamble on Romney: Online trading exchange website Intrade is now betting that Romney will win Michigan 63.5% to Santorum's 38%. That's a horse that would be hard not to bet on. If you bet big on Ron Paul winning, you could win the jackpot. Intrade says the libertarian has a .2% chance of winning Michigan. 

7:00 p.m. A Democratic primary instead of a Republican one? Startling: According to the New York Times, exit poll results showed that about 1 in 10 voters in Michigan today said they usually think of themselves as a Democrat. In 2008, 7 percent of Republican primary voters identified as Democrat, and in 2000, 17 percent did.

About six in 10 primary voters in Michigan consider themselves conservative, with about three in 10 saying they are very conservative and about the same number saying they are moderate, according to preliminary exit poll results.

Lose-lose for Romney? On @nbcnightlynews, @davidgregory thinks so, saying "either way, this is going to be a fragile frontrunner in Mitt Romney."

5:15 p.m. Does Romney talk too much like a rich guy? Romney today acknowledged that he personally had made “mistakes” so far in this race and said he was not willing to “light my hair on fire” to win over conservative voters who have been hostile to his candidacy. Romney spoke on casual remarks he made last week that his wife drove “a couple of Cadillacs,” highlighting the candidate’s personal wealth, and his reference during a visit to the Daytona 500 to being friends with NASCAR team owners. When asked if Romney thought these remarks damaged his campaign, he said: “Yes. Next question.”

4:00 p.m. Turnout low: CNN reports that the Michigan Secretary of State's Office on Tuesday estimated turnout in the Republican primary will represent between 15% and 20% of registered voters. That figure would represent a decrease from the 21% who participated in the 2008 contest. 

3:30 p.m. Robocalls take center stage: Santorum defended his campaign's use of robo calls to encourage Michigan Democrats to vote against Romney (also see below).

"We're going to get voters that we need to be able to win this election. And we're going to do that here in Michigan today," Santorum said in Grand Rapids, Mich. Romney has complained that the tactic is "deceptive and a dirty trick."

 

Everything you need to know about the Michigan primary

Why it matters: If Romney doesn’t win, chaos will consume the GOP. Expect the GOP race to find an outside candidate to run against Obama.

Most Useless Stat: Romney leads Santorum 38% to 36%. It doesn’t matter because there’s a +/- 4% margin of error.

Wild Card: Democrats. They’re allowed to vote for Republican candidates, as it’s an open primary. And Santorum is robocalling the hell out of them.

Most Surprising Stat: 42% of voters between the ages of 18 and 45 who plan on voting in today's Republican primaries support Santorum compared to only 25% who support Romney. Young people support Santorum?

My Predictions: Rick Santorum will upset Mitt Romney by a very close margin. Santorum is much more real than the past challengers to Romney. He's outperformed in several primaries to date because of his ability to truly connect with the average GOP voter. Romney, Newt, and Paul just don't have that ability. 

Polls close at 8 p.m. EST. Arizona will also hold its primary today.

Whatever happens in the Michigan contest, it will ultimately be a referendum on Mitt Romney, considered the defacto Republican frontrunner. A win for Romney would help ease fears that he is losing wider conservatives support. A lose, though, especially in his home state, would send the GOP race into chaos.

Rick Santorum, who has surged in the polls after winning a string of primaries earlier this month, will look to capitalize on his momentum in the Michigan primary. If Santorum were to win, some say Republicans would look for an alternative Republican candidate — one who is not currently in the — to be the eventual GOP nominee. Many in the Republican brass believe the far-right socially conservative Santorum is unelectable in a national race.

 

The New York Times projects that Romney has a 55% chance of winning, and will notch 38.7% of the vote. Santorum has a 45% chance of winning and is projected to notch 38% of the vote.

The Michigan race, though, is likely too close to pinpoint a true frontrunner.

 

There are 30 delegates up for grabs in Michigan. The state’s delegates will be allocated by a proportional method.

Mitt Romney won the Michigan primary in 2008 by 9 points over John McCain.

Related Story: Millennials and Young Voters Support Rick Santorum

Michigan’s primary is open, and Democrats are allowed to vote for the GOP candidates. Santorum is looking to capitalize on this point. A Santorum robocall urges democrats to vote for him. “Michigan Democrats can vote in the Republican primary on Tuesday. Why is it so important?” the voice on the call says. “Romney supported the bailouts for his Wall Street, billionaire buddies, but opposed the auto bailouts. That was a slap in the face to every Michigan worker, and we’re not going to let Romney get away with it.”

It ends with: “This call is supported by hard-working Democratic men and women and paid for by Rick Santorum for president.”

Complete trickery Santorum, well done. 

Besides, does Michigan even matter? It'll swing heavily Democrat in the general election regardless.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore