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Michigan and Arizona Republican Primaries; Romney Wins Arizona

Aired February 28, 2012 - 21:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: CNN can now project Arizona will go for Mitt Romney. CNN projects that Arizona and its 29 delegates, all of them, will be in Mitt Romney's camp. He will win the election, the primary election in Arizona tonight.

We do this projection based on the exit polls that have come in throughout the course of the day. We interviewed people at very important sample precincts throughout the state of Arizona.

Arizona, another state going in favor of Mitt Romney, but guess what? We cannot repeat, not, make a projection in Michigan right now. It is way too close, based on all the exit polling numbers that are coming in as well as the actual raw vote that is coming in.

Let's take a look at the exit poll numbers that have been coming up in Arizona, first of all. And we have projected that Mitt Romney is this winner. Based on the exit poll information in key precincts, 44 percent for Mitt Romney, 27 percent for Rick Santorum, 16 percent for Newt Gingrich, 11 percent for Ron Paul.

This is why we can project Arizona and all of its 29 delegates, winner-take-all in Arizona, will go for Mitt Romney.

We cannot make a projection, though, in Michigan right now, 30 delegates at stake, proportionate representation in Michigan.

Let's take a look at the vote, though. The raw vote in Michigan right now. Seventeen percent of the vote is now in and Mitt Romney has now take a slight lead over Rick Santorum. Look at this. Forty percent for Mitt Romney, 39 percent for Rick Santorum. Mitt Romney, about almost 2,000 votes ahead of Rick Santorum right now, Ron Paul with 11 percent, Newt Gingrich with 7 percent.

It's just gone up a little bit more now. Mitt Romney is almost 4,000 votes ahead of Rick Santorum in Michigan, 68,208 for Mitt Romney, 64,303 for Rick Santorum. It's very, very close. Nineteen percent of the vote now in Michigan. Romney taking a slight lead over Rick Santorum.

Let's go over -- let's go over to John King right now. Let's assess Arizona. First of all, 29 delegates, all of them going for Mitt Romney. That is absolutely nothing to sneeze at.


BLITZER: An important win for Mitt Romney in Arizona.

KING: An important win, important win, winner-take-all in Arizona. As you know Michigan is proportional. Let's look first at why we're so certain to make this call for Mitt Romney in Arizona. Then we'll look at why Michigan is so close.

The number one issue for Arizona Republicans today, Wolf, 48 percent, nearly half of the voters in this primary say the economy was the issue number one, and a pretty significant lead, a 17 percent edge for Governor Romney over Rick Santorum. And second place at the top issue. He win most of the votes, you're on your path to a good night.

Let's slide over. What else mattered in Arizona, electability. Thirty-eight percent of the voters, 38 percent say can defeat Barack Obama in November. The president, trying to defeat the incumbent president. And look at this right here, 53 percent, a majority of the voters who thought electability was the big issue went for Governor Romney. Another reason he is our winner tonight in Arizona.

Let's look at the ideology here. This is interesting, 38 percent, just ahead of somewhat conservative, 38 percent said they're very conservative voting in Arizona, and this is interesting. If you look at it, Senator Santorum, 38 percent, Romney, 38 percent. Santorum needs to do better to win a state among very conservative voters. Governor Romney splitting the difference there. Part of his path to victory. Why? Because among the 37 percent who say they're somewhat conservative, a big win for Governor Romney there.

He also won among those who describe themselves as moderate. That's why he's on his way to an issue. Now Arizona in the Romney camp, winner-take-all, Michigan, a roller coaster, Governor Romney now, 4500 votes ahead, with almost 20 percent of the vote in. Why is this one so close? The economy is issue number one in Michigan.

But Wolf, we're going to pull this up just to show you, 45 percent, Governor Romney winning, he's getting a pretty good margin over Senator Santorum among those who say the economy is the tough issue. But you do find some weaknesses for Governor Romney, if you look elsewhere. This is very interesting here. Among very conservative voters in Michigan, that's 30 percent of the electorate, you pop this up right now, Senator Santorum getting 50 percent, 50 percent for Senator Santorum among the very conservative voters.

Governor Romney getting just 35 percent. Remember, they split this vote in the state of Arizona, Governor Romney wins, Santorum with an advantage here. That's one of the reasons we're going to be counting votes.

Among those who describe themselves as somewhat conservative, though, that's 31 percent of the electorate, here you see Governor Romney with an edge. So you have an ideological strain in the state of Michigan right now, what conservative to moderate voters breaking for Governor Romney.

Want to show you this one here. This is the interesting, Wolf. This is very close late tonight when we start asking about the Democrats who voted tonight, 39 percent of the electorate, that's high for Republican primaries, describe themselves as moderate or liberal. Well, Rick Santorum is no liberal but look at this, 37 percent to 33 percent. So are these moderate to liberal voters voting because they support Senator Santorum or are they Democrats and independents who lean Democrats voting in the Republican primary trying to cause a little mischief in Mitt Romney's home state?

This, Wolf, will be something we watch as the night goes on. It looks like we're going to be counting Michigan, not only county by county, but congressional district by congressional district. Because that's how the delegates show up. Why are so many moderates and liberals voting for Rick Santorum? Could be a question late into the evening -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. We're going to be staying on top of this story. It could be, as I say, late into the night.

I want to go to Candy Crowley. She's over at Mitt Romney's campaign headquarters.

They're very excited, Candy, that Mitt Romney has won Arizona and all of its 29 delegates.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They are. But I have to tell you that the video feeds in here, the cable news went to hash about 10 minutes ago, so nobody in this room knew until about a minute ago that the Arizona projection is that Mitt Romney will win all those delegates.

It came over the PA system actually is how they found out. So while they're not dancing in the streets, they're at least dancing in the ballroom here. Obviously, what they want to know about is Michigan. The folks here on the ground, a lot of them state officials, say it's going to be a long night which I think we probably could have figured out for ourselves.

At some point we do expect the attorney general of Michigan, a Romney supporter, to come up and say exactly what they've heard that, A, Arizona is coming in for Romney, and, B, stand by and we'll see how Michigan goes. So waiting and seeing. Some of them have been here for a couple of hours. So it was nice for them to have some good news, albeit over the PA system here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, it's amazing. You would think at a night like this, they would have the TVs working at these respective campaign headquarters but obviously someone screwed up over there at Romney headquarters. I assume, Candy, people will be saying this is a metaphor or whatever, but let's just assume somebody made a mistake and the TVs working --

CROWLEY: It was working, it was working originally.


CROWLEY: Yes. It was fine and then it went to hash. And I'm sure they're working on it. BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure they are. All right, Candy, don't go too far away.

Anderson is with us as well.

Look, you can't knock it. Arizona, 29 delegates.


BLITZER: All of them going for Romney, a big win. We were all just in Arizona last week at the CNN debate and Romney came through there.


BLITZER: We'll see what happens in Michigan.

COOPER: Certainly a big win indeed. I mean it would have been a huge surprise had he not won in Arizona based on all the polls we've been watching over the last weeks.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And you know we need to give him credit in Arizona because we have a tendency in the press to focus on the ones -- you know, the train wrecks and -- or the close ones like Michigan.

But Arizona has just -- has just as many delegates, in fact, he'll get all the delegates out of this. So in terms of the delegate hunt, this was a -- this was a significant win for Romney and looks like he's doing -- you know the trend lines in Michigan suggest he may pull this out. That would constitute a good evening for him. And certainly avoidance of a huge embarrassment.

COOPER: If he wins but it's a very close race in Michigan, as it appears to be at this point, at least, I mean is that -- is that -- does that still do him damage?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it could because you would feel that Michigan would be an easy state for him to win. And because, you know, it's where his father was governor, it's where he grew up, and he's having a hard time there. And then it brings into the whole question of how is a Republican candidate, if he becomes the nominee going to do in the Midwest which, you know, you have to win a state or two in this Midwest if you're going to win the presidency, Michigan and Ohio would be -- would be nice.

But again, to echo David on Arizona, I think you have to give Mitt Romney credit here. What's interesting to me is that he split those most conservative voters. He still was a little behind Santorum on the Tea Party voters, strongly support the Tea Party voters, those are the ones he's had some problem with. And -- but he won all income groups and you know he usually wins the wealthy and not under $50,000 so, you know, you have to give him credit here.

COOPER: Although if you're a Rick Santorum, you look at the fact that if you look at his percentage of the votes and Newt Gingrich's percentage of the votes it about equals what Rick Santorum -- what --

BORGER: Right. And you would also say, I didn't spend money in the state of Arizona, I've been competing in the state of Michigan, large population of Mormons, 15 percent of the Republican electorate. So I think, you know --

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: Yet the polls do show that in Arizona the debate -- Santorum, I think we all agree Santorum lost the debate, he had a bad night last week, and that debate did have a significant impact in Arizona.


GERGEN: So I think it helped Romney. It seemed to have less of an impact in Michigan. But to go back to your question about -- I think a win is a win in terms of the kind of headlines you get but it does set you up for the next test. And Ohio will be a perhaps I think in many ways more critical test for Mitt Romney because it is not the state which he was raised, and right now, he's behind there. And I don't know whether -- well, it will be so interesting to hear tonight from these undecided voters in Ohio how they respond to whatever happens if Mitt Romney wins Michigan.

BORGER: Yes, I think the big question also is if Mitt Romney wins Michigan, even if it's only by a point or two or three, will that give him momentum? We haven't seen a lot of momentum in these -- in these races. Will that give him momentum on Super Tuesday and will that get him some more money because he's been spending his money at a very quick pace here? And so he needs money, he needs momentum going into Super Tuesday. In a lot of states, in the south, for example, that he -- that he is not likely to do well in, like Georgia, for example.

GERGEN: He's running third there. He's running third.

BORGER: Where Newt Gingrich will do well.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: Right. In Massachusetts, yes, he will. But Oklahoma, Tennessee, and so, you know, you've got to think of those states and Santorum could do well in some of those.

COOPER: Let's bring our other panel as well. I mean how critical on Super Tuesday is Georgia become for Newt Gingrich? I mean Newt Gingrich has not had a win now since South Carolina. I guess he can stay in it for -- regardless of Super Tuesday.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I think the most important state for Newt is not Georgia, it's Nevada. He's got to keep getting money out of the -- out of Chairman and Adelson there. And as long as he keeps winning that one-man primary, then --



CASTELLANOS: But no, that's -- interestingly enough, I think even a victory in Georgia is not going to do much for Newt Gingrich at this point. It's home, it's expected. He has to broaden himself beyond that and prove he -- you know, we can certainly can't count him out. The guys is -- he's harder to kill than one of the thing from the horror movie, you know, he keeps coming back. But we haven't -- and unless he goes beyond Georgia, I think you're going to see this turn -- stay a two-man race.

FLEISCHER: You know Newt set himself up because he said it's hard to imagine anybody going on if they don't take their home state.

COOPER: Right. Right.

FLEISCHER: So he set himself up for that. And I think Georgia is going to be a fair fight actually with him.

But Anderson, let me return to something we've been focusing on all night long, and that's the Democrat influence in Michigan. The latest we have in exit polls showed that percentage now of Democrats in Michigan is 9 percent, it's dropped from the earlier projections of 10 percent.

COOPER: Right.

FLEISCHER: Putting it very close to the 7 percent that came out four years ago. I've talked to a number of people in Michigan during tonight. There's a real sense up there that it's been a bit of an exaggeration of how many of these people are political pros that came out to make mischief. They're the ones who would love to get on camera and talk about it. There's also a sense that they really are just some blue-collar Democrats, moderates, who don't like Barack Obama who are attracted to Rick Santorum mostly because of what Gloria has talked about, some of the class warfare kind of thing, identification with Rick Santorum.

So I do think there's more to it than just -- this is mischief making for Rick Santorum.

COOPER: Right.

FLEISCHER: I don't think that's fair to him. He has an attraction to some of these voters. And the numbers really aren't that disproportionate. But for example, he's got 45 percent of the union vote and Mitt Romney has only 26 percent of the union vote in Michigan. That's a Democratic vote.

CASTELLANOS: But there's some things that just don't make sense, though, when you look at -at -- when you look at people who say they oppose the Tea Party. Guess who they're voting for? Rick Santorum. Wait a minute. That doesn't make sense. Some Democrats slipped in there. When you look at liberals, guess who they're voting for in large numbers? Rick Santorum. FLEISCHER: There is no liberal breakdown. It's moderate and liberal combined.

CASTELLANOS: Moderate and liberal.


FLEISCHER: But the polling doesn't tell you.

CASTELLANOS: You would still expect that -- you would still expect that that would be a place where Romney would find gold, not Rick Santorum. I think the answer is probably a little bit of both but in a close race, it all counts.

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, at the end of the day, I don't know if it's going to really make all that much of a difference. But I do think what we haven't really focused on tonight, and I'm sure we will as the night goes on, are the politics of the auto rescue. Because I really think that's one of the reasons why Mitt Romney is struggling so much in his home state. And while clearly the majority of Democrats are for it, we see that a good number of Republicans support it as well including the Republican governor.

COOPER: But all the candidates were opposed to the bailout.

CARDONA: Yes, but except for Mitt Romney is from that state. His father was an auto executive. People from Detroit and especially Michigan, obviously, they see this as more of a betrayal from Mitt Romney than they would Rick Santorum.


CARDONA: And let's keep in mind, they call -- they don't call this the bailout in Michigan, they call it the auto rescue. Why? Because it rescued millions of jobs.

FLEISCHER: Look, the exit polls actually show 51 percent of the voters tonight in the primary oppose the bailout.


FLEISCHER: The majority of Republicans in Michigan opposed it.

CARDONA: But that's not -- that's not --

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: They're the Republicans. I mean --


CASTELLANOS: That's the majority.

BEGALA: But what it did was rescue Michigan for Barack Obama. He will win Michigan in the general election, it will not be a swing state, even if Mitt Romney, as the son of Michigan, is the Republican nominee because the president took a really tough stand and it was very unpopular at the time in both parties if you polled it. And it worked it. And he is going to win Michigan and it's not going to be a swing state. And that's -- I mean --



CASTELLANOS: It hasn't been a swing state in a long time.

BEGALA: It could. It was -- it was a few months ago, though, because the economy was so bad and unemployment was so high. It plainly looks like it's worked.

CASTELLANOS: I can't believe my ears that -- my friend Paul here. So the president took a tough stand giving away 43 percent of GM and billions of dollars? No, giving money is the easy part. Saying no --

BEGALA: We can get at the time --


CASTELLANOS: Mitt Romney is criticized -- excuse me.

BEGALA: It was a business decision.

CASTELLANOS: Excuse me, Mitt Romney is criticized a lot, isn't he, for not taking tough stands, for not -- for not being firm on things. Well, guess what, in his home state, he stood up to a home state industry and said, no, there's a better way to do this than to hand it to the UAW.

BEGALA: But he was wrong.

CASTELLANOS: And it's pretty tough.

BEGALA: He said in that op-ed -- I know he says he didn't write the headlines, so let's leave the headline out. Let Detroit go bankrupt. He wrote the lead, though. And the lead said, if we do what the auto executives are asking for we can kiss the American automotive industry good-bye. That's what Newt -- that's what Mr. Romney said. He was wrong.

CASTELLANOS: No, he wasn't.

BEGALA: This is an important thing but to grab him on his argument against President Obama is he has never held a job, he doesn't know anything about business. That's a powerful argument. This is a wonderful answer that Obama has, he says, wait a minute, Mr. CEO, Mr. Businessman, I made a business call about a big business crisis. I was right and you were wrong. And I think it's a terrific --

(CROSSTALK) FLEISCHER: Paul, it's certainly true about Chrysler. Chrysler is no longer an American owned company. We took it over. The taxpayers. And then it was sold through the pennies on the dollar to Fiat. Fiat owns Chrysler.

BEGALA: Let's go make that to Mitt Romney's point --

FLEISCHER: It has a lot of validity there.


FLEISCHER: Unless you can (INAUDIBLE) America.

CASTELLANOS: I think the biggest thing --

CARDONA: But the problem is what Romney was talking about, his plan would not have worked, and in fact, your old boss said so as well because there was no private money to come and rescue the auto industry, so there was no other option.


CASTELLANOS: Because -- because the Obama administration wouldn't cut lose the --

CARDONA: So what is he talking about when he said we should have done it my way?

BEGALA: The Chrysler bailout did come from the Bush administration. And they deserved credit for that. So if they were bought by Fiat or whatever, that's Mr. Bush --


CASTELLANOS: The most important thing we've learned tonight so far is that Mitt Romney has too many home states.


CASTELLANOS: Because he doesn't seem to be doing well in them.


Wolf, we're still watching those votes come in.

BLITZER: And let's take a look, Anderson, where the votes stand in Michigan right now. Twenty-eight percent of the vote is actually in. And Mitt Romney is building up his lead in the state of Michigan. He's 9,238 votes ahead of Rick Santorum, 116,000 votes for Mitt Romney or so, 106, almost 107,000 for Rick Santorum. Forty-one percent for Romney, 38 percent for Santorum, 28 percent of the vote is now in. Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich behind.

We're going to be speaking live shortly with Ron Paul. I've got bunch of questions I want to ask him on this very important night, Michigan, Arizona. We projected Arizona already going to Mitt Romney. We're one week away from Super Tuesday. Ten contests next week, lots of questions coming up for Ron Paul right after this.


BLITZER: All right. We're watching what's happening in Michigan right now. We've already projected that Mitt Romney will win Arizona, take all of its 29 delegates in Arizona.

Look at the vote count in Michigan right now, 31 percent of the vote is now in and Mitt Romney has a lead over Rich Santorum by almost 10,000 votes, 126,000 for Mitt Romney, 116,000 or so for Rick Santorum. Ron Paul is coming in third so far with 34,703. Newt Gingrich coming in fourth with 20,360.

Thirty-one percent, though, of the vote is now in and Mitt Romney maintaining a slight advantage over Rick Santorum. This is a critical battleground state for Mitt Romney right now. It's a state where he was born, a state where his father served as governor. He needs to win Michigan tonight. Right now it's looking a little bit better for him than it was a little while ago. But we'll stay on top of the situation. We cannot project a winner yet in Michigan.

Right now I want to bring in Ron Paul, the Republican presidential candidate, the Republican congressman from Texas.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: I want you to respond --

PAUL: Thank you.

BLITZER: If you will, Congressman, Rick Santorum keeps suggesting and his supporters, his strategists, keep saying you're in cahoots with Mitt Romney, you're trying to help Mitt Romney secretly behind the scenes in order to -- for whatever reason, and that's why you're running ads going after Rick Santorum.

Earlier, you ran ads going after some of the other candidates but you never say anything or do anything critical of Mitt Romney. Go ahead, talk to Rick Santorum, tell him why you think you're not in cahoots with Mitt Romney.

PAUL: Well, you know, if anybody comes to any of our meetings or our rallies, I talk about issues, you know, and foreign policy and civil liberties and the economy and the cold standard of the Federal Reserve. But if that's all he has to talk about, that means he doesn't have much of a platform to talk about.

I would think we're supposed to be talking about the issues. But to construct something like that, I mean, he just pulled that out of the air because there's no truth to it. But if he wants to spend his energy doing that, I just -- you can't do anything about it. But he dreamt that up. And I think he should talk about the issues instead, that's what I think I'm supposed to do.

BLITZER: Well, let me be precise then. Have you run ads critical of Mitt Romney? He says you haven't but you know the facts.

PAUL: Yes, we have at the beginning. We called him a flip- flopper and any time we're in a debate, you know, I mention -- I run against all three of them because they are very similar. They have the same foreign policy, they're very aggressive in moving our troops around and occupying. They endorse this principle of preemptive war. They aren't interested even talking about civil liberties. They don't talk about the Federal Reserve and what we ought to do and nobody has provided any real cuts.

And I provide real cuts because I think the debt is the problem. We have a debt crisis in this -- in this country worldwide and as matter of fact it's worldwide. And it's rather serious. So I see them all in the same category. I think the only difference I've been able to observe is quite possibly would be management styles on their personalities, on how they would do things, but philosophically, there's no difference. And I don't hesitate to point out our differences no matter who it is.

BLITZER: You know, because I've asked some of Santorum supporters, why would -- why do you believe that Ron Paul would be in some sort of conspiracy to help Mitt Romney? And you know what they've said to me, Congressman?

PAUL: No --

BLITZER: You want me to tell you, right?

PAUL: Well, if you want to. I'm not --


BLITZER: I'm going to tell you -- they've got this notion that you would like to see your son, Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky, on the ballot with Mitt Romney and that's why you're supposedly protecting Mitt Romney in going after Rick Santorum. What do you think of that theory?

PAUL: Well, the first thing, it hasn't crossed my mind, second thing, I don't think it would work, and third thing, I don't think Mitt Romney would be talking in that language at all. So I think that's just -- some people are much more into conspiracies than others. So if Santorum is an addict on conspiracies, I guess he's going to have to keep talking that way.

BLITZER: What happened in Michigan tonight? You know I would have thought in a state like Michigan you would have done better than you're obviously doing right now. What happened?

PAUL: Well, I don't know what -- I don't whether you could say something happened, because our polls showed that, you know, we have solid support and our numbers are better. Every state we've been in, if you compare it to four years ago, it doubles and triples in enthusiasm. I mean, obviously, we wished we could have done a lot better but the growth and the spirit behind what we're doing, and you know, we get these -- everybody recognizes we get a large number of people out and a lot of them are young people.

Some now that we're with and came out four years ago are 18 and 19, and they're now voting. But there's still not a lot of young people come out. So there's something about this message of liberty and anti-war and sound money very attractive to young people. I think they're scared to death about the debt they're inheriting and they're understanding what I'm saying.

So, yes, the enthusiasm is much greater than the actual votes that come, but still, we're very pleased with our strategy. I mean we're accumulating delegates and we'll continue to work on the caucus states where, you know, our investment can pay off more and that is our strategy and right now, we're not disappointed with the way the process is working and giving us a chance to build on our delegate count.

BLITZER: The Virginia primary, a week from today, you're in Virginia right now, Springfield, Virginia.

PAUL: Right.

BLITZER: Just outside of Washington, D.C., as you know, Newt Gingrich didn't get on the ballot in Virginia, Rick Santorum didn't get on the ballot in Virginia, their campaign organizations weren't good enough apparently to do -- get all the signatures that they needed.

You're on the ballot, Mitt Romney is on the ballot, only the two of you. Some are saying you're going to reach out to Santorum and Gingrich supporters in effect to try to beat, to beat Mitt Romney in Virginia. What's your strategy in Virginia, Congressman?

PAUL: Well, obviously, but -- what somebody might construe as trying to reaching out, some people think that you're going to try to talk people into voting for you for nefarious reasons. Certainly not. I mean I was reaching out when I put ads on about how Santorum is a fake conservative.

You know, that's to get some of his vote. So I'm always reaching out to get all their votes. And yes, I'm going to try to get as many votes from Santorum, of his people, and Gingrich and see what I can do. But that's our job with the campaign and that's why I'm here and that's why we had a couple thousand people show up and it was very encouraging obviously.

BLITZER: In Virginia, what's going to be your main argument over the next few days between now and next Tuesday to try to win in Virginia and beat Mitt Romney?

PAUL: That's one thing, you know, people ask about that what we do in Virginia versus North Dakota and California. To me, the same message. Why should the message of freedom and sound money and prosperous economy and sensible foreign policy and civil liberties, that should appeal to everybody. It's cross-section.

And that is what I love about this message of individual liberty because it brings people together because they come together for their freedom, whether it's their social freedoms or whether it's their economic freedoms and we should all get together for that reason and not be judgmental about how they use that freedom.

So I can't change my message and say, well, I'm going Virginia, what kind of subsidies do they knew? What can I promise them? And go to Iowa, can we promise farm subsidy? And this sort of thing. I can't do that. I'm just so convinced that the cause of liberty and individual liberty and sound money and free market economics is the solution to our problems. So my message is the same no matter where I go.

BLITZER: One final question, Congressman. When someone like Mitt Romney, for example, wins in Arizona tonight, let's see what happens in Michigan, do you normally call them and congratulate them after a win in these states?

PAUL: You know, I have in the past, but there've gotten to be so many states coming up, and if somebody doesn't give a speech early, and I'm on the road, it's likely I won't do it. You know? But I have on several occasions.

BLITZER: Congressman, as usual, we were getting into this habit of speaking every week during these campaign elections. Thanks so much for joining us.

PAUL: You're welcome. Nice to be with you.

BLITZER: Ron Paul joining us from Virginia tonight.

Let's take a look at the votes right now in Michigan. And we'll put them up on the screen right now. Thirty-five percent of the vote in Michigan now in. Mitt Romney maintaining his lead, 41 percent, over Rick Santorum's 38 percent. He's up by 12,494 votes, 145,000 or so, almost 146,000 for Mitt Romney, 133,400 or so for Rick Santorum. Ron Paul with 12 percent, Newt Gingrich with 7 percent.

You see the vote constantly changing. It's coming in rather quickly from Michigan right now. But unlike Arizona, we cannot yet project a winner in Michigan. We're going to wait for more of these actual votes to come in. We have projected a winner in Arizona, we've projected that Mitt Romney is the winner in Arizona.

Let's go over to John King one more time. We're looking at Arizona, we're looking closely at Michigan right now, Arizona, all 29 delegates going to Mitt Romney.

KING: And that's a big win for Governor Romney in terms of momentum. We're still early in the delegate chase but we know 10 states next week, Governor Romney would really like momentum going in and he gets Arizona, that one we'll fill in later when we start to get some actual votes in Arizona. You'll see that one turn red, we trust our projection there. He will get those delegates. It's Romney red at the moment in Michigan, Wolf, 36 percent of the vote in. And you see it right there. Now you see about a 12,000 vote lead there, a little more than that. Governor Romney at 41 percent, Senator Santorum at 38.

If you look at the map, you might say, well, there's a little bit more purple than dark red. Why isn't Santorum doing better but these places right here, I want to show you -- here's 100% of the vote counted in Marquette County, for example; 47 percent of the vote, that's a pretty convincing margin. But remember the vote count, only 2300 votes up there. These are smaller, more rural communities.

We've seen that in other states. It's a stronghold for Senator Santorum.

Here's something. There was a lot of talk about would Democrats cause mischief in the state of Michigan. If you look at the moment right now, there are a lot of Democrats in this area right here. That's Governor Romney right there. I will come back to that in just a second.

Just want to show you now, if Senator Santorum is to make up this difference, Wolf, where would he have to do it? Well, he's doing very well out here in the conservative Grand Rapids area, Kent County, about six percent of the state population, only five percent of the votes counted in this county so far.

You see the margin for Senator Santorum, an eight point margin on the percentage standpoint. He needs that to continue. He needs, when that gets up to 95 and 100, to keep that margin, have the vote count go up. That's one of the places where he needs to do well.

But if you move over this way and you are looking at the places where Governor Romney is doing well -- again, Wayne County is where Detroit is. There's a lot of talk of getting Democrats to come out for Santorum. At the moment, with a little more than a quarter of the vote counted in Wayne County, Governor Romney ahead there by 17 points.

So at the moment, he's holding on to a place he had to win. You come over here again to Wassinau (ph) County, 3.2 percent of the population, Governor Romney breaking 50 percent just barely right there.

This is the big area, the auto area right around here, Detroit, Macomb County right here, some GM plants, other plants here. Governor Romney again holding his lead there, Eleven percent in, if that holds up, bodes well for Governor Romney.

BLITZER: Let's go to Oakland County because Dana Bash is standing by. Set the scene for us. It's a big county. As you see, 12 percent of the population.

KING: Twelve percent of the state population. I remember being here with Governor Romney four years ago. This was the place in his Michigan campaign four years ago that was critical. I remember he was out here campaigning, going to one of his headquarters with him.

A the moment, 48 percent to 33 percent for Senator Santorum. Only 17 percent of the vote in. I just showed you out west, where Santorum needs to do well. If Governor Romney can hold those numbers here, Wolf, and in the areas around Oakland County, that would help him win the statewide vote. Later, we would have to break it down by congressional district.

But that right here, Oakland County, 12 percent of the vote in -- 12 percent of the state population, excuse me, 17 percent of the vote in. That's a good margin in that area for Governor Romney, if he can hold it.

BLITZER: Yes, if he can hold that, that's significant. Dana Bash is in Oakland County right now. Dana, they're counting votes in Oakland. Only 17 percent have been counted so far. But tell us what's going on.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We actually have a very cool thing for you right now. We are behind the scenes at the Oakland County Election Center. What you see here, Wolf, is actually where they are gathering all the votes coming in from all this very important county that John just laid out, and figuring out exactly where things stand.

I want to bring in Joe Rozell. Joe is the director of elections. Thank you very much for giving us this inside look here.

Tell us exactly what's going on here and how high-tech it is.

JOE ROZELL, DIRECTOR OF ELECTIONS, OAKLAND COUNTY, MICHIGAN: OK. So over here, we have our connections, our secure electronic connections with our 51 cities and townships that are reporting to us all of our 541 precincts.

BASH: So all the information is coming through those particular lines where those red bulbs are?

ROZELL: That's right. It's all electronic. There's no manual entry, no opportunity to transpose numbers, that type of thing.

BASH: Take us over here to what all of these people are doing on these computers.

ROZELL: Sure. These folks -- our county, 541 precincts are divided up and being monitored by these different individuals, each one responsible for about 100 precincts. So they're monitoring those precincts. Then that data is being pushed over to the other area over here, where it's then being put out onto the Internet, so the folks at home can see the results.

BASH: And this is something that we have first on CNN right now. You're looking at a screen. I know John had just said that he had 17 percent of the vote in in Oakland County. But we have a much larger percentage right now. Tell us what we're seeing.

ROZELL: We're looking at 61 percent of our precincts counted. Mitt Romney is at about 38,000 votes or 49 percent, and Rick Santorum is at 24,000 votes or about 31 percent. BASH: OK. Thank you. I just want to quickly talk to one other person. That is Bill Bullard, who is over here. He is the county clerk. You are more political, shall we say, because you have endorsed Mitt Romney.


BASH: Tell us just really how important this county is. Obviously, we know it's his hometown. It's where he went to elementary school, where he went to high school. But politically?

BULLARD: Well, this is the second largest county in this state. It's the biggest Republican county. A candidate to win statewide has to win Oakland County.

BASH: And not just a candidate but Romney in particular, because of the demographic makeup of Oakland County, right? It's the maybe more moderate suburban area of Detroit?

BULLARD: Yes. Romney went to high school in this county, Mitt Romney did. His family -- a lot of his family, his brother lives here, nieces and nephews. So this should be his home territory. It's only a matter of how big will he win in Oakland County.

BASH: Now we got some numbers on Bloomfield Hills, which is literally his hometown. What can you tell us about how well he's doing there?

BULLARD: He got a higher percentage in Bloomfield Hills than the county as a whole, 73 percent, which is a pretty good total, because there's 10 other candidates on the ballot. Michele Bachmann, Cain, other candidates are still getting votes.

BASH: So looking at the numbers overall so far, obviously just 67 percent are in, how are you feeling about how Mitt Romney is doing in this very important county?

BULLARD: He's doing very well here. As you know, the delegates are by congressional district pretty much. There's only two that are allocated statewide. So the 14 congressional districts, we basically have two big congressional districts here. So I'd say he probably has won those two congressional districts.

BASH: And one other important fact -- in fact, let me just reiterate one other thing and get back here. That is this numbers, where we stand right now. If you want to come over here, Joe, and just tell us once again so our viewers can hear where the candidates stand in this incredibly critical county of Oakland?

ROZELL: Sure. With about 67 percent of our county reported, Mitt Romney has 49 percent of the vote, followed by Rick Santorum with about 31 percent of the vote.

BASH: So Romney is doing quite well here and needs to politically.

ROZELL: That's correct.

BASH: I just want to tell you one other thing, Wolf. Wolf, let me just tell you one other thing. If we come over here, this is where everything is being gathered that will eventually go off to the state, to the capitol in Lansing. So when they get 100 percent reporting, they are going to hit send and send it off. And hopefully we will be able to get that to you, a sneak peek before everybody else does.

BLITZER: That would be good. We're in the news business. We want to get the information first. Dana, thanks very much.

Let's go back to John. Officially, they've only reported 17 percent of the vote in Oakland County in, where 12 percent of the people of the state of Michigan live. But we now, thanks to Dana -- she got 67 percent of the vote in, and it's a significant lead for Mitt Romney.

KING: It is a significant lead. The percentages stayed about the same. Governor Romney goes up to 39 percent, Senator Santorum drops to 31 percent. But you look at that 14,000 votes, Wolf, in this one county alone -- remember, you can see -- these numbers are going to shrink when I do this.

If you pull the map out -- got to turn this off to do that. You pull the map out, you see a lot of purple. You say, why is Governor Romney winning the state, 40 percent of the vote now counted statewide, Governor Romney up 41 percent to 38 percent.

You see all this purple, you say how can that be? That's because the votes that matter the most -- you have more votes in places where you have a bigger population, these Detroit suburbs right here. As Dana noted, Governor Romney once lived Bloomfield Hills, right here in Oakland County. He also lived in Detroit at one point of his life and in those areas, Wayne County, Oakland County and Macomb County next door.

He's running up some pretty good margins. That makes it hard in these more populated areas he's running up big margins -- the question is we'll overlay this with the congressional district map. But it's the value of having reports on the scene. We're up to 67 percent with that count and the state's only reported 17 percent of that vote so far.

BLITZER: That will be encouraging to the Mitt Romney folks, Mitt Romney supporters out there. Stand by, John. We are going to hear from the governor of Michigan.

It's an incredibly close race in Michigan, still a lot of votes yet to be counted. We're staying on top of this story. We're not going anywhere. Stay with us. You're here at the CNN Election Center.


COOPER: -- wins Arizona. We're still waiting on results in Michigan. The numbers though in Michigan, Mitt Romney is in the lead right now with 42 percent of the vote. He has 41 percent of the vote, about 173,000. He's 12,037 votes ahead of Rick Santorum.

Let's go over to the cube to our political director, Mark Preston, check in with him, try to get a sense of when we may be able to project an actual winner in the state of Michigan now that obviously all the polls are closed and we've gotten so many of the votes in.


COOPER: Mark, what are you hearing?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: We actually got some breaking news out of Michigan right now, Anderson. We don't know who is going to win Michigan and we don't know who is going to win a bulk of the delegates. However, we can award some delegates right now in Michigan, which is very big news.

Of course, this is going to be a long night. But we can now, based upon our calculations from what our Decision Team has found out, is award three delegates not only to Mitt Romney but also to Rick Santorum.

COOPER: To each of them, they each get three at that point?

PRESTON: So that means there's going to be 24 more delegates. We're looking to see what happens.

COOPER: In terms of being able to project a winner in Michigan, what are you thinking? Do we have a sense of when we might be able to?

PRESTON: So we don't have a timeline. But let's go back to 2008. In 2008,, 870,000 people voted in that primary. So far, only 412,000 people have -- we have actually seen that vote right now. So it's too early for us to make the call overall for who is going to win Michigan, but also for dividing up these proportional delegates, which, of course, is a big, big fight going on..

COOPER: Cool. Mark, I appreciate that. I want to check in also with our contributors, our analysts, about these delegates counts. Ari Fleischer, you and I were talking during the break a little bit about this. It is important to point out you can win the state of Michigan and still not win all of the delegates.

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And also, we're focused tonight on who is winning, who is losing, but there is really 15 different elections going on in Michigan tonight, because you can get two delegates if you win the state, but then you also get two delegates for each of the 14 Congressional districts in the state.

So while Mitt Romney took winner take all Arizona, there are 15 races under way in the state of Michigan. That's how you can end up with a split verdict in the state, somebody wins X number of delegates and the second place finisher gets Y. And those numbers could be very close. So whoever doesn't win the state can still actually do very well because they did well with the delegate count tonight. Fifteen separate races in the state of Michigan tonight, 14 CDs, Congressional Districts, one state-wide election.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That works for Romney probably tonight. And it works for him because all the -- the other three candidates are unlikely to drop out because I think that they can still get their proportions. On this proportional thing, I think the field is set and is going continue.

Tonight, that's good for Romney. Over time, that's bad, because he needs to put this thing away if he wants to be the Republican nominee. Then-Governor Bush put away the nomination very early in 2000. Senator McCain put away the nomination very early in 2008.

Generally I think longer primaries are good, make you a better candidate. For the Republican party, it hasn't always been the case. And they like to wrap things up early.

COOPER: Do you think this race is making Mitt Romney a better candidate?

BEGALA: It's not. It's not. It usually does, but it's not, for two reasons. He keeps making these sort of Marie Antoinette gaffes. But second, and I think more importantly, is it's dragging him off --

COOPER: That's what you want them to become known as, isn't it?

BEGALA: I suppose. But no, there's another thing, which is something he can control more easily. He's allowing the process and the conservative thunder on the right to draw him further to the right.

So he has moved on immigration so far that he's really almost anathema I think to Latinos and Latinas. He has moved so far on things like contraception, which is a Rick Santorum issue, not a Mitt Romney issue, so far that now he wants no federal funding for contraception for poor women.

That used to be a Republican plan. They created Title X, which funds contraception for poor women. So the process is pulling him way to the right, and that's really damaging for him in the general election.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Republicans love to compare this with the primary of '08 between Hillary and Barack Obama. And it really is so different, because, first of all, yes, that one was very contested. It went all the way to the very end. But it was not as nasty as this one.

They never called each other unelectable. They never called each other dishonest. And the other thing is that each candidate, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, had tremendously passionate followers. And each camp -- I remember because I was on Hillary's camp. We had basically -- we knew and sort of had a deal that no matter who won, we were going to get behind it.

Now that probably will happen at the very end.

COOPER: Does it seem more Kumbaya in retrospect to you? Because at the time, I remember that whole, like, I like you just fine line.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But look what happened. She's the secretary of state for the president. I just don't see that kind of thing happening this time around.


BEGALA: It didn't draw Obama or Hillary to the far left. They did not say, if you make me president, I'll send Seal Team 6 into the border room of Exxon Mobil, we'll nationalize the oil companies. They didn't say crazy left wing things.

They stayed right where they were in the beginning. And that's why I think President Obama was able to become President Obama.

COOPER: Jessica Yellin, I want to check in with her, White House correspondent. If you were sitting in the Obama White House tonight, clearly, I would assume, they wish Rick Santorum would win the state of Michigan.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, one Democrat, not a White House Democrat, but somebody who is very close with them, said if Santorum wins tonight, it's Christmas for the Democrats, told me that. So yes, but to borrow from what Paul Begala just said, they would also be happy to run against Marie Antoinette at this point.

Because bottom line is they -- Mitt Romney has proven to be a weaker candidate along the line than they expected, frankly than many political observers expected. That said, Anderson, at the same time, everybody in Team Obama I talked to expects, once there is a general election nominee, this will be a dog fight, that once this fighting is all over in the primary process, the president will have to slog this out, because it will ultimately be about the economy.

And it's a lifetime between now and November elections. So it will be a whole new ball game come the general.

COOPER: Alex, I see you nodding your head.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: -- admitting that themselves, because they're saying that when they're looking at Mitt Romney, they're saying he's weak because he's the establishment candidate. He's not the candidate of the far right in this primary.

Mitt Romney is going to be a very tough general election candidate. And Mitt Romney's weakness is that he's flip-flopped on some issues. Barack Obama has been all over the map, you know, more spending to reduce the deficit, going into Iraq while coming out. You know, he was the candidate for pay as you go budgeting a long time ago. We're not going to have any lobbyists in the White House or take any lobbyists' money, until lobbyists looked for jobs in the White House and found jobs.

Again, so now four of them -- this is going to be a much more competitive race. But at the bottom, I think Jessica is exactly right. This is a country that is still hurting economically. And that falls on the doorstep of the president of the United States. Independents are not happy with the way this economy is going.

And you know when revolutions occur? Revolutions don't always occur when things are getting worse. Revolutions occur when things start to get a little better and people's -- people's hopes and desires get a little more intense.

So Barack Obama is in big trouble in the fall.

COOPER: Gloria, David, you have no doubt that this is going to be a dog fight.

BORGER: It will be a dog fight. But one thing I want to point out is when you look at Arizona and Michigan and you look at these two candidates, I would have to say that neither of these candidates finished really strongly, on a terrific, upbeat, great campaign note.

I mean, you had Rick Santorum doing pretty well, and then he went down these rabbit holes, as one Republican described it to me, on the cultural issue. And you had Mitt Romney gaining some momentum back, particularly in the state of Michigan. And what does he do? He uses, to use your phrase, the Marie Antoinette line, talking about his wife driving a couple Cadillacs, et cetera.

So the question of whether these candidates have become better candidates, if you look at this race and these primaries that we're looking at tonight, I think neither of them distinguished themselves particularly.

COOPER: David?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't want to rain on Mitt Romney's parade tonight, because it looks increasingly like he's going to get two victories. But the truth is, I think to go back to Paul's point -- I find myself often agreeing with him tonight. The longer this goes on, the more it is hurting the Republican prospects in the fall for everybody.

And yes, it's going to be a dog fight in the fall, but when you -- when Mitt Romney drops 20 points among independents, when Barack Obama seizes a 20-point lead over Mitt Romney among independents, over the course of a campaign, something has gone very wrong in that campaign.

And I do think --

COOPER: Is there time, though, once it becomes a general election, to make that up?


GERGEN: It is, but I have always seen -- I worked for Jerry Ford when Ronald Reagan ran a hard, tough campaign, almost took the nomination away from him in 1976. And Ford was so far back -- he was 33 points back of Jimmy Carter by the time that was over. He could never catch um. He didn't have time to catch up.

You can -- can Romney still win? Absolutely. Can Republicans still win? But they're starting further back than they would like to.

BORGER: And it depends on how enthusiastic they are about their candidate. They're so divided right now about their candidates. Will they be able to muster the enthusiasm just because they don't like Barack Obama?

FLEISCHER: There's been a lot of polls that came out recently showing the president is starting to open up a bit of a lead. On the other hand, there was also a Gallup poll last week that showed Mitt Romney has a four point lead over Barack Obama. And even Rick Santorum is down by one point.

This general election is going to be a 50/50 race. I really don't think people can say that Barack Obama has it made.

CASTELLANOS: Well, Republicans have been really chewing on each other here pretty tough. I mean that's normally expected in the primary. Barack Obama should have a 10 point lead right now. And he does not.

Mitt Romney, I tell you what happens when you win a nomination. Winners look a lot prettier in the morning. And what will happen at the Republican Convention, all of a sudden, Mitt Romney will grow in stature. He'll be in the ring with the heavyweight champ. That makes him the number one contender.

Victory washes away a lot of the mud and the grime of the primary. What until he takes his two Cadillacs into the general election. He'll be driving strong.

GERGEN: You can't argue it both ways. You can't say the economy is terrible, and therefore -- and therefore Romney is going to win, and then turn around and say, actually, Obama should be 10 points ahead. You can't have it both ways.

BEGALA: It's not the head to head. We know. We've all been involved in a lot of campaigns. Nine months before the election, the horse race question, who would you rather be for, Obama or Romney, is useless. It's nine months way. In fact, the way we ask the question, if the election were held today, who would you be for? (INAUDIBLE) damned surprised because nothing has happened yet.

We haven't had the election. But what you should look for are these internals that David Gergen talked about. In the ABC/"Washington Post" poll, 20-point gap among independents in terms of favorability. President Obama has a 49 percent favorability among independents; Governor Romney only 29.

In the Pew poll, they asked, do you think Mitt Romney understands the concerns of people like me; 61 to 29 said no. In our CNN poll, 65 percent said Mitt Romney's policies would favor the rich. Those internal get baked in early. And they matter a lot more than the horse race.

CASTELLANOS: But there are other internals too. And we noted before, when you ask who is most extreme, ask most voters, they'll tell you that they think Barack Obama is to liberal, 50 percent; Mitt Romney too conservative, only 33 percent. And this election is still going to be about government spending and economic growth.


COOPER: Also, don't discount what happens, guys. When you get a nomination, what do you do? You turn toward the middle. You start talking about economic growth. You start painting a contrast with Barack Obama. And that's going to make Mitt Romney look a lot better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here's where I think you're wrong, Alex, in terms of Mitt Romney and his ability to be able to turn back to the middle. Because he's been so extreme on so many issues, and you really can't -- you cannot compare the flip-flop that he has made in his career to whatever you say --

CASTELLANOS: Actually I can.


CASTELLANOS: I think Obama's flip-flops are so much worse, being as he's done them as president of the United States.

COOPER: We have to take a break. We're also waiting to hear from Governor Romney, also waiting to hear from former Senator Rick Santorum. We're going to bring you all those statements live, as we continue to see these numbers coming in. Looking to see when we may be able to project a winner in the state of Michigan.

Mitt Romney has won the state of Arizona tonight. Our coverage continues.


BLITZER: We're getting ready to hear from Mitt Romney momentarily. He's going to be speaking to his supporters in Michigan. Right now, you're looking at a live picture. "Believe in America," that's his campaign slogan.

Once Mitt Romney starts speaking, you'll see it, you'll hear it live right here on CNN.

Let's take a look at what's going on in Michigan right now. Here are the votes. Look at this, almost 60 percent of the vote is now in, 59 percent. Mitt Romney maintaining a significant lead over Rick Santorum right now; 237,000 for Mitt Romney to 214,000 for Rick Santorum.

He's up by 22,770 votes, 40 percent to 36 percent. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich way behind; 60 percent of the vote is now in. Even as we were speaking, more votes were coming in.

So it's a significant lead for Mitt Romney. He's looking relatively strong in Michigan right now. We're still waiting for 40 percent of the vote to come in.

Let's go over to CNN's John King. He's watching what is going on. Based on what I'm sensing right now, it's going to be hard for Santorum to make up those 20,000 votes.

KING: Not impossible, but I'm going to say right now almost impossible. Let me show you why. If we want, for starters, just come to Oakland County, our count right now only shows Oakland County at 28 percent. If you remember from Dana Bash's reporting a few minutes a go, we have much more of that vote --

BLITZER: Almost 70 percent.

KING: We know there's much more of that coming. And we know it's lopsided in favor of Governor Romney. So when we look at the state-wide gap now, we know Governor Romney will get a big boost from Oakland County. You see all of this purple, the issue is -- and we've seen this in other states -- and I'm just going to pick a random county.

In a lot of places, they're tiny. So you have Senator Santorum winning the county with a 12 point margin, but it's 251 votes. So in the statewide total, Wolf, the fact that Governor Romney is winning down here is critically important because this is where the bulk of the population is.

Wayne County, for example, is where Detroit is. Now not a lot of Republicans there, but 45 percent to 32 percent with about half of the vote in. If that margin stays the same, as we get the other half of the vote in, it becomes hard for Senator Santorum to wide state-wide.

That, though, is not the only issue tonight. Winning statewide gives you the moral boost. The question is the delegates. Two delegates per congressional district. Michigan has 15 congressional districts as we speak tonight, but it's losing one because of the census. It will have only 14. That is the map we're dealing with.

I want to bring this up and show you. I'll show you a different way in a minute. Right in here, where you see all this purple, Senator Santorum doing well, there are four congressional districts right in this area. It looks like Senator Santorum will win those four districts. That would be eight delegates just from those districts. You see this area here? There are a half dozen Congressional districts, major population centers there. Governor Romney, it looks like, will pick up the six Congressional districts that are right in here.