Hard-won victory for Romney

Mitt Romney addresses supporters at his Michigan primary night rally in Novi Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mitt Romney had a tougher fight to win in Michigan than he had anticipated

Novi, Michigan - Mitt Romney has still not won the right to be his party's candidate in the presidential election.

This was a hard fight in a state that should have been an easy win. After all, he was born and brought up in Michigan and his father was a much-loved governor here.

More than that, he was way ahead in the polls just a few weeks ago. When he spoke at his victory rally, he looked more relieved than delighted. He said: "We didn't win by a lot, but we won enough."

It is true his party will not go into a panic and demand that someone else comes into the race. But it is also true that this result shows just how volatile Republicans are. It also shows they are still not over-impressed by any one candidate.

Rick Santorum made a series of statements that will have put some voters off in the last few days, so he had a bad campaign. He also made a rambling concession speech.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Rick Santorum may not have won in Michigan, but he has succeeded in prolonging the race

But despite all that, he did pretty well for someone who was barely taken seriously until the beginning of the year. He lost but he took nearly half the votes. He made this into a two horse race and that may well be the way future contests will look.

Ten states vote next week in Super Tuesday and those results could be decisive, producing a clear winner. They could be, but I very much doubt it. More likely they will be a mixed bag for Romney.

For months he has been the front-runner more often then not. Arizona and Michigan will reinforce the view that he will in the end be the winner. They also confirm that he is unloved by conservatives, a choice impelled by pragmatism not passion, a man who has been unable to clinch the deal and become the Republicans' candidate to take on Obama.

The longer this goes on, the more questions will be raised about how much the mud-slinging and Romney's rush to the right has damaged his chances in that more important contest.