Thanks for reading our updates on the Michigan primary race. We’ll be back on Wednesday with a look ahead to Ohio’s contest on Super Tuesday.
10:35 pm ET News organizations declare Romney the winner. It wasn’t the blow out that Romney might have wanted, but virtually all the major news organizations, including NPR, the New York Times, and the broadcast and cable networks, have called the Michigan primary for him.
With about 70 percent of votes in, Romney is leading Santorum by 41.6 percent to 37.3 percent. Since delegates are awarded on congressional districts, and the vote totals are not in, it’s not possible to divide them up yet. But both will get some.
CNN reports that Santorum called Romney before his speech to concede.
“Thank you, Michigan, what a win. Thanks, you guys,” Romney said at his campaign event. in Novi, Mich. “This is the place where I was born, this is the place that I was raised…I know that Michiganders in this room, we consider you all family.”
He added, “We didn’t win by a lot, but we won by enough, and that’s all that counts.”
10:15 pm ET. NBC calls it; Santorum speaks. NBC News becomes the first network to call the state for Romney. In Grand Rapids, an upbeat Santorum speaks to his followers. He thanks his supporters and says, “A month ago, they didn’t know who we were. They do now.”
He talks about his mother, who lived in Saginaw, and speaks of his college-educated wife. The comments are a contrast to Santorum’s dismissal of President Obama as a “snob” because he supports college education programs.
10:00 pm ET. Romney stays in front. Almost two-thirds of the votes are now in, and Romney remains in the lead, although the figures are shifting. Romney leads Santorum by 40.3 percent to 36 percent. There is no victory speech yet, but one will come if the cable news networks call the race for Romney.
What would a 4 to 5 percent lead mean for him? He has long been expected to win the state, so a victory is no surprise. For Santorum, a loss along those lines would be a missed opportunity to beat Romney in a state where he was an unknown — something he has to do in order to nab the GOP nomination.
But, there is a consolation prize, and a big one: delegates. Until now, Santorum’s victories have come in non-binding caucuses. In this instance, he would get his first delegates, while Romney would get delegates as well.
A Romney victory would be a relief to Gov. Rick Snyder. The governor endorsed Romney two weeks ago, although he did not do much campaigning for him.
9:30 pm ET. Romney has a narrow lead. With about 30 percent of Michigan’s votes counted, Romney leads Santorum by 41 percent to 38 percent.
Romney is ahead in Metropolitan Detroit, including Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw and Livingston counties. Santorum’s strength is coming in far southern Michigan, west Michigan (including Kent County, the home to Grand Rapids) and the counties of the Upper Peninsula.
That county-by-county tally is important. Michigan awards its delegates based on Congressional districts. So, Michigan’s 30 delegates are likely to be divided between the two candidates.
Ron Paul is not leading in any county, but he is picking up a solid 11.6 percent of the vote. Newt Gingrich, who did not campaign much in Michigan, has 7 percent.
9:00 pm ET Polls are closed across Michigan. A few results have trickled in. The New York Times has a county-by-county Michigan map. According to CNN, with 14 percent of the vote counted, Santorum leads Romney 40 percent to 39 percent.
But on Twitter, The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza (@thefix) said he spoke with Romney staffer Bob Ehrlich, who said he had seen exit polls and predicted a Romney victory.
Santorum seems to be doing well in the Upper Peninsula, especially Marquette County, which he visited. With 61% of votes counted, he has nearly 50 percent, to Romney’s 28 percent. Vote totals there won’t be large, but any margin helps in this tight race.
8:00 pm ET. The polls are now closed in most of Michigan. A few stations are open until 9 pm ET in the Upper Peninsula. We’ll be back as soon as there are some concrete results; meanwhile. follow #miprimary on Twitter for updates, and listen to our partner station Michigan Radio for the latest.
7:30 pm ET The polls will close in half an hour. Some exit poll results are starting to come in. One of the things we’ll find out tonight is who voted, and where. Michigan Republicans have always been concentrated in a few distinct places.
One is the northern suburbs of Detroit, which developed after World War II. Mitt Romney is holding his election night party in Novi, about 25 miles north west of the city. It has a sizable Asian population and is home to many auto industry managers.
Another is Grand Rapids, always one of the state’s most conservative areas, and home to president Gerald R. Ford, whose presidential museum sits on the banks of the Grand River.
This is the base for some of the state’s most prominent Republican players, including the Van Andel and De Vos families, and Peter Secchia, the former U,S, ambassador to Italy.
Rick Santorum will hold his election night event in Grand Rapids, a departure from having it in Detroit, where major media always set up shop.
Many eyes will be on the first Congressional district, which encompasses the Upper Peninsula. Santorum trekked up there this weekend, and if the vote margin is slim, the U.P. might spell the difference.
Some analysts are also wondering if Santorum will draw votes from Democrats. (Remember: you can request either ballot.) The Atlantic.com posted the audio from a Robocall that went out on Election Day, urging “fellow Democrats, Republicans and independents to vote in the Republican primary” and defeat Mitt Romney.
On the other hand, Democrats also can cast votes for President Obama, who is listed on the separate Democratic party ballot.
7:00 pm ET It isn’t unusual for primary contests in Michigan to draw an extremely light turnout. That seemed to be the case at two polling stations in Ann Arbor today. I stopped by the polling place in my old neighborhood in search of guidance to find the place where I should vote this time out.
There were no lines, and several poll workers rushed to my assistance. After we looked at a precinct map, they directed me to a school a mile or so away, where I was the only voter when I arrived in late afternoon.
Michigan has a closed primary, meaning you can only vote for one party or the other. But you don’t have to be a registered member of a party to vote. You’re also allowed to look at the ballot for each party before you choose the one you want.
Although there are only four Republicans left in the race, the entire field made the Michigan ballot. You could cast a vote for Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman or Michele Bachmann, if you so desired. There’s also a separate Democratic ballot, with President Obama’s name and a blank space to write in an alternative candidate.
I asked the precinct captain how things had gone throughout the day. “Slow!” she told me.
6:45 pm ET Welcome to Changing Gears’ coverage of the Michigan primary. We’ll give you regular updates throughout the evening on the way things look, and a full report on Wednesday. Polls show an extremely tight race between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Be sure to check out our partner Michigan Radio for their on-air and Web coverage. Polls in Michigan close at 8 pm ET.
Meanwhile, refresh your memory with our stories on the Michigan race from the past few weeks.