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Michigan delegates for GOP race split evenly to Santorum, Romney

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney's narrow but campaign-saving primary victory in Michigan lost some of its luster when the final outcome showed that his top rival, Rick Santorum, still won half of the state's delegates, muddying the race ahead of 10 key state contests next Tuesday.

He overcame the religious conservative Santorum by a slim margin — 41 percent to 38 percent — in the vote Tuesday by sticking to his core and mainstream Republican message of fixing the economy and reducing unemployment in a country still recovering from the worst recession in decades.

Santorum remains on solid ground heading into Super Tuesday, a day next week when 419 delegates are up for grabs in 10 states.

Santorum is leading the polls in Ohio, possibly the most important contest on Super Tuesday. It is a big industrial state with 8.1 percent unemployment, 63 convention delegates at stake and a long history as a battleground in general election campaigns. Santorum also is keeping an eye on two other big prizes among the 10 Super Tuesday states: Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Romney is all but assured of victories in at least two of next Tuesday's states — Massachusetts, where he was governor and faces little or no competition in the primary, and Virginia, where neither former House speaker Newt Gingrich nor Santorum qualified for the ballot. Those two contests offer 84 delegates combined.

News that Santorum's narrow loss in Michigan would yield him as many delegates as the winner — 15 each — enabled him to label the results a success on Romney's home turf, putting some wind in his sails ahead of the big contests next week.

The other two candidates in the race, Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, did not campaign in Michigan and got no delegates.

“We had a much better night in Michigan than maybe was first reported. This was a really great race to go into, in a sense, the belly of the beast, the hometown of my chief rival here in the Republican primary,” Santorum said Wednesday during a campaign stop in Tennessee.

Romney was campaigning in Ohio, where he kept on the economy, promising “more jobs, less debt and smaller government” if he's elected in November. Romney was headed next for North Dakota, which holds caucuses Tuesday.

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