Romney's clinching of a long-sought electoral "gold medal" after disappointing silver trophies in the Iowa and the New Hampshire contests revived a richly funded campaign that appeared to be teetering on collapse.
FOR THE RECORD:
Michigan primary: A Section A article on the state's presidential vote that appeared in some editions Wednesday said Hillary Rodham Clinton was the only candidate on the Democratic ballot. Three other Democrats —Dennis J. Kucinich, Mike Gravel and Christopher J. Dodd -- also appeared on the ballot. In addition, the article said Mitt Romney's victory in the Republican primary was "a long-sought electoral gold medal." Romney earlier won the Wyoming Republican caucuses. Also the article identified Ken Khachigian as an advisor to GOP candidate Mitt Romney. He is an advisor to Republican hopeful Fred Thompson.
With his crucial Michigan win, the former Massachusetts governor now has momentum to vie as a top-tier candidate against Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who won last week in New Hampshire but finished second here, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who scored an upset victory in Iowa.
Even as Romney lauded his first major win as "the beginning of a comeback," he foreshadowed a tough four-day stretch of campaigning ahead in South Carolina. Romney tweaked McCain and his Senate career by claiming that Michigan was "a victory of optimism over Washington-style pessimism."
With all of Michigan's precincts reporting, Romney captured 39% of the vote. McCain had 30%, and Huckabee was a distant third, with 16%.
Democrats also voted in Michigan on Tuesday, but Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York was the only major candidate on the ballot. Her chief Democratic rivals withdrew after party officials stripped the contest of its delegates, a response to state party leaders who had pushed the primary date forward.
Clinton had 55% of the Democratic vote, and a movement by supporters of Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois to vote "uncommitted" picked up 40%.
Romney, 60, a Mormon multimillionaire venture capitalist, ran a moderate pro-business administration in Massachusetts. Michigan is his home state, where his father, George Romney, built a national career as a GOP politician.
On Tuesday night, Romney was ecstatic as he took the stage with his wife, Ann, and his family in a hotel ballroom in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, just 10 miles from the hospital where he was born in 1947.
"Let's take this campaign to South Carolina and Nevada and Florida . . . and all the way to the White House," Romney exulted before plunging into a crowd of supporters chanting "Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!"
Romney credited his primary win to his optimistic take on rebuilding Michigan's shattered auto industry -- and, by extension, suggesting he could steer the nation away from looming recessionary harm.
He also chided McCain for recent comments that many auto industry jobs were gone forever -- remarks that appear to have been a political miscalculation.
McCain tried a last-minute recasting to insist that he, too, felt Detroit's ills could be overcome -- but did so only after Romney sniped at him repeatedly as pessimistic. Exit polling indicated that GOP voters appeared to have more confidence in Romney than in McCain on economic matters.
"I will never accept defeat for any industry here in America," Romney said.
Bill Ballenger, a political analyst based in Lansing, Mich., said McCain might have damaged himself with his self- proclaimed "straight talk."
"Romney hopped on it and said, We don't need pessimism -- this state is not going to fall," Ballenger said. "Even though Michigan people are pretty realistic, they needed a little happy talk."
McCain was already in South Carolina when the Michigan results came in Tuesday night.