Mitt Romney won big victories in Arizona and Michigan tonight.  As of this writing Mitt Romney led in AZ with 48%-26% over Santorum and leads in MI 41%-38%.  Both were called for Romney relatively early in the night, especially competitive Michigan.  Santorum’s hopes of stealing away Romney’s home state were dashed and even worse for Santorum are the results from MI (according to exit polls).  AZ seemed to be a foregone conclusion since after the debate in Mesa AZ on the 22nd.

What the exit polls tell us out of MI is that Romney’s ground game and massive ad buys paid off.  He won whites 43%-37% and narrowly carried both men and women.  Not surprisingly Paul carried young voters. Santorum and Romney fought over the rest however.  Santorum narrowly won 29-39 year olds but Romney dominated seniors and middle aged voters.

In terms of education and income in MI a familiar dynamic played out.  Romney lost those who only had a HS education but carried voters who had some college education, a college degree or graduate college degree.  Among the 34% of the electorate that made $49,999 or less he lost to Santorum.  But Romney won the 33% of the electorate that made over $100,000.  More importantly though, Romney did better among down-scale voters than he did in the past and that bodes well for the Romney camp.

Romney won narrowly among married men and women but also carried unmarried men and women, by larger margins than married men and women. 

In an indication that Democrats wanted Santorum to win a majority of union members backed Santorum.  Of the 9% that identified as Democratic over 50% went for Santorum.  Independents went narrowly for Romney 35%-33% but most important for Romney is he carried Republicans 46%-33%.  That is the more important number out of MI.

Ideologically moderates and somewhat conservative voters Romney dominated.  Romney won moderates 46%-30% and somewhat conservative 51%-31%.  The most liberal and conservative voters backed Santorum.  These numbers translate to Romney winning moderates/liberals and conservatives overall.

Even better for Romney among religious voters and Tea Party supporters Romney won among those who support the Tea Party 42%-41% and won Catholics.  Romney ran dead even among Protestants 41%-40%.  Romney won among those who valued leadership and experience and defeating Obama above all else by wide margins.  Santorum won among those voters who valued social issues and religion more.  Regionally Romney won metro Wayne, Oakland and Mac counties.  Romney and Santorum tied in Lansing.  Santorum won the Panhandle and the Grand Rapids Area.

The exit poll also indicates Santorum may have lost the election last night.  Romney dominated among early voters, but Santorum won among voters who cast ballots up to two weeks ago up to today.  Yet Romney won among voters who cast their ballots today (which goes against what polling had found prior).  It is notable that Romney played hard on a Santorum robocall urging Democrats to vote for him.

The AZ results are essentially victory after victoy for the Romney camp.  He won among men and women by over 20 points, won whites and even Hispanics, every age group, every education level, every income level, both Republicans and independents, moderates, somewha conservatives and even strongly conservative voters 41%-35%.  Romney also won every county.

What these results show is that Romney is back to being the frontrunner in the GOP race.  First off, Romney is going to get all 29 delegates out of AZ and depending on the Congressional District outcomes in MI will likely win or split MI’s 30 delegates. That means Romney nets a solid majority of the delegates from tonight.  More importantly for Romney is he won his home state and emphatically won Republicans.  Momentum has now shifted backed into his favor.  Even before tonight Gallup’s daily tracking poll found Romney regaining a 5 point lead nationally.  Third, Romney’s voting coalition is now well established ahead of Tuesday.  It is college educated and senior voters, Catholics and upper income voters. 

This sets Romney up to do well in VT, VA and MA on Super Tuesday.  Romney also can now claim he can compete in OH and if he wins OH (also likely to win ID) the night will go to him.  And with future contests further favoring Romney he could lock up the nomination soon after Super Tuesday.  Meanwhile Santorum and Gingrich will be fighting over not just the same set of voters, social and strong conservatives but also the same regions. Santorum will need to win some Southern contests to stay relevant on Super Tuesday (especially if he loses OH).  Gingrich has staked his continued candidacy on winning Southern states such as Georgia and Tennessee.

For Romney tonight was a great night.  His campaign has to be breathing a huge sigh of relief.  And if Romney does as well with certain voting groups he has been weak with on Super Tuesday it indicates another good night in a week.

Note: Never before have I seen this.  For the first time there is polling evidence that Democrats mad a concerted effort to swing the race.  They failed but it will further bring into doubt the idea of open primaries or caucuses.

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