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Romney banks on Michigan for much-needed win

  • Story Highlights
  • Romney finished second in Iowa, New Hampshire; won in Wyoming
  • Romney was born in Michigan; his father was a three-term governor there
  • McCain, Huckabee, Romney trying to convince Michigan they can help its economy
  • Romney pulled ads in South Carolina, Florida, at least until after Michigan primary
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(CNN) -- On the heels of two second-place finishes and one overshadowed win, an embattled yet confident Mitt Romney marches into Michigan looking to rebound.

Michigan native and GOP hopeful Mitt Romney has pledged a win in Michigan.

The former Massachusetts governor is predicting a win in Tuesday's Michigan primary, but he said the same of New Hampshire, where he finished 6 points behind Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

"I'm in first place," the GOP hopeful said at a campaign event in Boston, Massachusetts, despite his New Hampshire second-place showing. He repeatedly told reporters he had the most votes and delegates among all GOP presidential contenders.

Romney is a Michigan native, and his father, who made an unsuccessful run for the GOP presidential nomination in 1968, was governor of the state for six years. Another loss -- especially in Michigan -- could be a big blow to Romney.

If he does lose, "he's going to have to do some serious reassessment of whether his campaign is viable," said CNN political analyst Bill Schneider.

With former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani banking on Florida and the later Super Tuesday contests, Romney held front-runner status in the early voting states before he was overtaken by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in Iowa and McCain in New Hampshire.

After that, Romney said he would be spending "every minute of time" until the January 15 vote stumping in Michigan, except for a brief break to participate in the South Carolina Republican primary debate.

Romney's camp seems to be aware of what's on the line in Michigan. His campaign on Wednesday decided to pull television ads in South Carolina and Florida, at least until after the Michigan primary.

"Romney-paid media has been re-focused away from South Carolina and towards Michigan," a campaign aide said.

Romney has run an expensive media campaign in South Carolina -- outspending any other Republican candidate since his campaign first hit the airwaves there in September.

The latest CNN South Carolina poll, conducted mid-December, showed Romney tied for third with Giuliani and behind Huckabee and fellow southerner Fred Thompson.

"He seems to be betting everything on a win in Michigan. He really does have to win Michigan," Schneider said.

Romney, who has seen his numbers slip in recent polls, faces fierce competitors in Michigan: McCain and the non-Republicans. Video Watch what's shaping up in the Michigan showdown »

Michigan has an open primary, meaning registered voters can participate in either primary.

The Democrats have no action on their side because the Democratic National Convention has excluded the party's delegates because it scheduled its primary before February 5. The Democrats could decide to vote in the Republican primary, as they did in 2000 when McCain took the state.

George Bush received more support from Republicans, but Independents and Democrats, who made up 52 percent of voters in the GOP primary, handed McCain the win.

McCain is also hoping his New Hampshire momentum will carry him to the top in Michigan.

McCain, Romney and Huckabee are all banking on resonating with Michigan voters when it comes to the economy.

Romney, on the ground in Michigan, said he takes the state's troubles personally and said he has the skills to spark a turnaround.

Speaking on the night of his second-place finish in New Hampshire, the former businessman said he is the one who can revive the state, where the unemployment rate sits a 7.4 percent.

Romney pointed out that Michigan has had Democratic leadership for years and has seen "taxes ... going up and jobs ... going out."

"I will strengthen America," he said. "I'll make sure it stands up for the values we believe in, and I'll make sure it remains the hope of the earth."

Huckabee has released a television ad that addresses the state's economic insecurity and reminds voters of his own working-class roots.

"I believe most Americans want their next president to remind them of the guy they work with, not the guy who laid them off," the ordained Baptist minister says in the ad.

And McCain told Michigan voters, "We are a Judeo-Christian nation, and we cannot leave these great Americans behind. I want to tell you: I will help you create new jobs."

McCain recently picked up two endorsements in Michigan, one from the Detroit Free Press, one of the state's largest papers. Another came from the Detroit News, which seemed cool to Romney's presidential aspirations.

"Michigan-born former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has morphed into what he seems to believe is the perfect conservative Republican in pursuit of the presidential nomination," The Free Press wrote.


"Romney has been a capable manager of every challenge he has ever faced, and his Michigan roots might help a state that surely needs more friends in Washington, but who knows what Romney might morph into in the White House?"

When asked by CNN whether he was putting all his eggs in one basket, Romney pointed to the February 5 Super Tuesday states, saying: "Oh, I got more baskets, and there are more baskets coming down the road." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's John King, Bill Schneider, Sasha Johnson, Alexander Marquardt, Rebecca Sinderbrand and Peter Hamby contributed to this report.

All About MichiganMitt RomneyU.S. Presidential Election

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