Michigan GOP election heads to uncertain finish

By Corey Williams

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 28 2012 4:45 p.m. MST

Karen Santorum, wife of Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, greets diners at New Beginnings Restaurant in Kentwood, Mich., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012.

Paul Sancya, Associated Press

» View our political blog, with live updates and analysis of the GOP presidential nomination process.

DETROIT — Voters casting ballots in Michigan's Republican primary have varied opinions on which GOP candidate they'd like to see in the White House.

Michigan native son and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum received much of the attention in the hours after polls across the state opened Tuesday.

"I have been impressed with Romney since the last election and I really do think he can capture the independents and beat Barack Obama," said Mary Schwab, a 52-year-old registered nurse from West Bloomfield, northwest of Detroit. "I guess the theme here is I want to beat Barack Obama."

Lansing's Roxann Wilkinson cast her vote for Santorum, partly because she likes "his values."

But can he beat Obama in November? "I hope so," said Wilkinson, 46.

Losing the state he grew up in would be a blow to Romney's campaign, but Santorum was banking big on a strong showing in Michigan to give him momentum heading into next week's Super Tuesday contests. Voters who select a GOP presidential ballot Tuesday also can choose Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul.

Self-employed entrepreneur Pat Burke, 55, of Grosse Pointe Farms, said he voted for Romney.

"The conservative purists need to come together," he said. "You need to vote for the most electable conservative. ... We want someone new, someone who has business experience. It's the economy, economy, economy."

Only declared Republicans were allowed to vote in Michigan's GOP primary, but party rules let voters change their affiliation temporarily on the spot.

Robin Kyle, a 55-year-old Democrat and lawyer from Grosse Pointe Park, said he voted Tuesday for Santorum, believing he would present a weaker challenge to Obama.

"I want to make it interesting," Kyle said. "Hopefully, Republicans still will be fighting over the nomination in June."

Obama has no competition in the Democratic primary, and votes for him won't count. Democrats will choose their candidate at a May 5 caucus.

Romney, Santorum and Paul have campaigned heavily in the state, especially in the weeks leading up to the election. Michigan election officials are expecting between 15 percent and 20 percent of the state's registered voters to cast ballots.

At stake for Republicans are 30 delegates awarded largely by congressional district.

But early voter turnout appeared lukewarm and was described as light or low Tuesday in a number of communities across the state.

Oakland County elections director Joe Rozell said estimates of final turnout range from 23 percent to 25 percent countywide. He said turnout was higher in Bloomfield Hills, former home of Romney.

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