Romney campaign regains its confidence after Michigan win
'We won by enough, and that's all that counts,' Romney tells supporters
Romney tries to steer conversation away from social issues
Candidate admits some ill-timed remarks alluding to wealth hurt efforts
As a television broadcast showed Mitt Romney pulling ahead in Michigan’s hotly contested primary race, campaign advisers began streaming into the hall where he would speak.
The cheerful group’s appearance en masse came minutes before Romney was declared the winner, and underlined his team’s confidence after weeks of doubt about his Michigan prospects.
“Just a week ago, the pundits and the pollsters, they were ready to count us out,” Romney said in his speech to hundreds of cheering supporters. “We didn’t win by a lot, but we won by enough, and that’s all that counts.”
His campaign roared back to life Tuesday night, staving off concerns about the viability of his bid as he bested former Sen. Rick Santorum in the hard-fought battle for Michigan.
Dropping the attacks he has thrust at Santorum in recent speeches, Romney again seized the mantle of presumptive nominee and focused his fire on President Barack Obama.
“We need to have a recovery from this so-called recovery,” Romney told the Michigan audience.
Michigan wasn’t supposed to be that way. The Massachusetts governor had long been expected to sail to easy victory in the state where he was born and his father served as governor.
But after sweeping a trio of contests in early February, Santorum shot ahead in Michigan state polls and became the latest Republican to present a challenge to Romney’s front-runner status.
The two candidates spent days before the primary trading barbs at appearances across the state, with each man accusing the other of lacking conservative credentials.
In recent days, Romney sought to steer the conversation away from the social issues Santorum frequently discussed and back to the economic issues where he is most comfortable.
However, a series of unforced errors dogged the GOP candidate. He made two casual references to his wealth, saying his wife Ann drove “a couple of Cadillacs” and telling The Associated Press he was friends with NASCAR team owners.
In addition, the campaign was widely mocked after Romney gave a long-touted jobs speech at Detroit’s Ford Field. Critics said the speech offered little new information and the optics – 1,200 people sat in neat rows on an enormous field with 65,000 empty seats arcing around them – had an underwhelming effect.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Romney admitted the remarks had damaged his effort but said he still believed he would become the party’s nominee.
That vision seemed more likely Tuesday night.