The Washington Times - February 29, 2012, 10:01AM

His margin of victory may have been closer in Michigan than in 2008, but Tuesday night was a good night for Mitt Romney on many fronts.

In both the Arizona and Michigan Republican primaries, the former Massachusetts governor improved not just his share of the vote, but the total number of votes he won — reversing a trend that had seen him actually shed votes from 2008 in Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado, Nevada, Missouri and Maine.


With the exception of Missouri, whose primary wasn’t binding, all of those states were caucuses, where very conservative voters dominate. But in the other primaries, Mr. Romney has done well, improving his vote tally in each of them.

In Arizona, he won more than 215,000 votes, which was about 30,000 more than he won in 2008. And in Michigan, he won about 410,000 votes, or more than 70,000 better than he did the last time through.

Michigan also saw higher turnout overall in the GOP primary in 2012 than 2008 — which signals runner-up Rick Santorum’s strength as a candidate as well. The former Pennsylvania senator won more than 377,000 votes, which put him well ahead of Sen. John McCain’s second-place showing in 2008.

Exit polls show Mr. Romney won across almost every demographic group in Arizona, where his chief worry is that he won only 38 percent of the Hispanic vote, which was well behind his share of the overall vote. Both former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who have taken the least restrictive stances on illegal immigration, did better among Hispanics.

In Michigan, Mr. Romney’s margin of victory appears to have come from women voters. Mr. Santorum stumbled among that population. And Mr. Romney did well among the wealthier and better-educated — which leaves open to Mr. Santorum the populist path he has at times tried to pursue in his quest for the GOP nomination.

In probably the most telling statistic of the night, Mr. Santorum won among those who “strongly support” the tea party movement, and those who “strongly oppose” it, while Mr. Romney won those who somewhat support it, somewhat oppose it or were neutral. That suggests Mr. Santorum did, in fact, benefit somewhat from Democrats and independents who voted for him in order to try to make Mr. Romney’s path to the nomination more difficult.