Mitt Romney pulled off a win in the Michigan primary tonight, though the race was close and underscored his struggles as the GOP establishment candidate seeking the party's nomination.
The former Massachusetts governor also won, by a larger margin, a contest in Arizona, a state that he was expected to take in part because of its large Mormon population.
In Michigan, Romney barely avoided the embarrassment of losing to his chief rival, Rick Santorum, in the state where he was born and where his father was a popular governor.
"We didn't win by a lot, but we won by enough, and that's all that counts," Romney said.
In 2008, Romney won the Michigan primary by nine points, over John McCain. The closeness of the vote this time around suggests that Romney won't have a huge surge of momentum at his back in the week leading up to "Super Tuesday," when an avalanche of delegates will be awarded in 10 states.
As Romney spoke to his supporters in Michigan around 10:30 p.m., he led Santorum by just three percentage points. He claimed that last week, "the pundits and the pollsters -- they were ready to count us out," referring to analyses that Santorum and Romney were running neck and neck.
Romney's victory speech was aimed squarely at President Obama, not Santorum. He mentioned the economy several times and also promised to repeal "ObamaCare," restore the country's credit rating and bring in oil from Canada that he said Obama denied by the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline.
"He thinks he deserves a second term," Romney said of Obama. "He says, 'We can't wait.' To which I say, 'Oh, yes we can.' "
Just before 10:20 p.m. ET, ABC News projected that Romney would win in Michigan, as Santorum was speaking to his supporters. Before he took the stage, Santorum called Romney to concede the race.
"We came into the backyard of one of my opponents in a race that everyone said: 'Well, just ignore it. You have really no chance here,' " Santorum said in Michigan. "And the people of Michigan looked into the hearts of the candidates, and all I have to say is, I love you back."
Once expected to win that contest handily, Romney watched his stock fall in the state after Santorum rode a wave of popularity from his Feb. 7 victories in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.
After some recent comments that gave him the image of an elitist -- such as that his wife drives "a couple of Cadillacs," and that he has "great friends that are Nascar team owners" -- Romney was playing catch-up.
Santorum, meanwhile, continued to make controversial statements about social matters -- such as that he wanted to "throw up" after reading John F. Kennedy's speech on the separation of church and state, or that women fighting on the front lines might dangerously raise men's emotions -- but voters didn't punish him.
His standing deflated slightly after the last primary debate in which Romney repeatedly forced Santorum to explain his votes as a senator.
In the delegate scramble, Romney was the clear winner tonight. As the winner of the Arizona primary, he will get the state's 29 delegates while the other candidates get none. Michigan divides its delegates to candidates based on how many votes they win in congressional districts, so he and Santorum are expected to each win several.
The Democratic Party framed the results as an example of Romney taking positions to the right of the mainstream while having to drastically outspending Santorum.