After devastating defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire, Mitt Romney climbed back into the presidential race, winning the Michigan primary and reasserting himself into the race to become the Republican nominee.
Romney beat out Arizona Sen. John McCain, who came in a close second, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who came in third in the state, ABC News projects.
"Tonight marks the beginning of a comeback, a comeback for America," Romney told supporters at a rally in Southfield.
"Only a week ago, a win looked impossible," he said. "Tonight is a victory of optimism over Washington-style pessimism."
"Washington is broken, and we're going to do something about it," Romney said as supporters yelled "Mitt!"
"Let's take this campaign to South Carolina and Nevada," Romney said to cheers, "and all the way to the White House."
McCain called Romney to congratulate him Tuesday night soon after the networks projected him the winner.
"My friends we fell a little short tonight," McCain said in a speech to supporters Tuesday night, "but we went to Michigan and did what we always do: We told the truth"
Conceding Michigan, Huckabee thanked his supporters, noting he was outspent in the state. Congratulating Romney, Huckabee said, "I won Iowa, John McCain won New Hampshire, Mitt Romney won Michigan, but we're gonna win South Carolina."
Campaign staff close to Romney point to a "strong close" in Michigan, arguing the former Massachusetts governor was able to convince Michigan voters that he was one of them, partly through brute force.
In speech after speech in the state, Romney repeated that he was born and raised in Michigan, and that his father was a popular auto executive and three-term Michigan governor in the 1960s.
"I've got Michigan in my DNA. I've got it in my heart, and I've got cars in my bloodstream," he has said.
That strategy paid off. Forty-two percent described his family ties to Michigan as at least somewhat important in their vote; he won them by a huge margin, with 58 percent to McCain's 17 percent, according to exit poll results.
Campaign aides said he was able to sell that message even to younger voters, who never knew his father.
They also point to his comfort level when discussing the economy.
Aides even suggest he might have benefited from the recent spate of unsettling economic news. The mega-successful corporate tycoon seems at ease talking about economic and business matters.
"I will not rest until the Michigan economy has come back," was a regular Romney refrain on the campaign trail.
"I'll work just as hard as anyone who's ever worked for this great state and make sure that the future of Michigan is bright," Romney said Tuesday at a get-out-the-vote rally in Grand Rapids.
Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, 7.4 percent in November. Romney has promised Michigan voters he will help devise a national policy to help automakers if he's elected president.
And preliminary exit poll results suggest the top issue by far on the minds of Michigan voters is the economy. About 55 percent of GOP primary voters said it was the single most important issue in their vote, far above the war in Iraq, cited by only two out of 10.