Mitt Romneyscored a breakthrough win in the Michigan primary on Tuesday, reviving his struggling campaign, halting rival John McCain's momentum and further scrambling a chaotic Republican presidential race with no clear front-runner.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, desperately needed a victory in the economically ailing midwestern state where he was born and raised to keep his White House hopes alive after second-place finishes in the first two contests.
While the Republican returns rolled in, the Democratic White House contenders Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards were meeting in an evening debate in Nevada -- site of that party's next contest on Saturday.
The hectic schedule reflects the heightened intensity of the wide-open U.S. presidential race, as both parties choose candidates for the November election to succeed President George W. Bush.
With Romney's win, three different Republicans have won the first three significant contests -- McCain, an Arizona senator, took New Hampshire last week and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won in Iowa on Jan. 3.
The race now moves to contests in Nevada and South Carolina on Saturday, and then the Florida Republican primary on Jan. 29 where former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani may spring back into contention. After that comes the Feb. 5 "Super Tuesday" contests in 22 states.
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McCain and Huckabee had already left Michigan and headed to South Carolina before the state's results were known. Romney will join them on Wednesday.
Democrats also held a primary in Michigan but a dispute over the date of the vote led the national party to strip the state of its delegates to this summer's presidential nominating convention, making the contest meaningless.
Clinton Alone On Democratic Ballot
As a result, Obama and Edwards kept their names off the ballot and Clinton was the only top contender listed. None of the top Democrats campaigned in the state after the dispute arose.
Clinton appeared headed to an easy win over several minor candidates and a ballot listing for "uncommitted."
The Republican race in Michigan, which suffers the highest unemployment rate of any U.S. state at 7.4 percent, nearly 3 points above the national average, pushed the economy to the top of the campaign agenda.
McCain promised lower taxes and reduced government spending would make the United States more competitive globally and create new jobs in the slumping auto industry, but he said those jobs that had been lost would not be coming back.
Romney called McCain a pessimist, and stressed his background running the Salt Lake City Olympics and as a businessman. He said he would restore Detroit's lost power by lifting the regulatory burden on companies and boosting research to generate new jobs.
Romney stressed his family roots in Michigan. His father was a senior auto executive and popular governor in the 1960s.
McCain, who won the state during his failed 2000 presidential bid, had been hoping for a big turnout among independents and Democrats, who can vote in either primary.
Exit polls showed about a quarter of voters in the Republican race were independents, less than McCain had hoped for.