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Live Blogging: The Michigan Primary

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Smart Politics will continue to monitor and update the official Republican primary results tonight in Michigan. These percentages are based on raw vote numbers provided by reported precincts, not a scientific random sample.

7:10 p.m. Early indications are from exit polls that Republican turnout in this open primary is much larger than in 2000, when a storm of Democrats and independents voted to help give the state to John McCain. Republican turnout today is projected to be approximately two-thirds of voters in the GOP primary, with about one-quarter independents and less than 10 percent Democrats.

7:22 p.m. (0 percent reporting)
Romney = 38%
McCain = 26%
Huckabee = 19%
Paul = 8%
Thompson = 5%
Giuliani = 2%
Hunter = 0%

7:30 p.m. The script for the media tonight, should McCain win, is already written - McCain will continue his surge, which has taken place across the nation (McCain is already leading Giuliani in the latest polls in what were once considered "Giuliani-friendly" states such as California and New Jersey). If Romney wins, as the trend in polls were suggesting, how will the media characterize the state of the GOP field? Will they characterize Romney as the new frontrunner? Or dismiss the victory because it is Romney's childhood home state?

7:37 p.m. Note: while the Democratic primary is also being held in Michigan today, there are no delegates to be won: the Democratic National Committee stripped Michigan of all its delegates to the national convention because it held its primary before February 5th. The Republican National Committee penalized Wyoming of half its delegates when it held its caucuses on January 5th, and gave Michigan the same penalty - therefore only 30 delegates are tied to the GOP Michigan contest today.

7:45 p.m. (4 percent reporting)
Romney = 35%
McCain = 32%
Huckabee = 17%
Paul = 6%
Thompson = 4%
Giuliani = 3%
Hunter = 0%
Uncommitted = 3%

7:48 p.m. Pundits on Fox News are still characterizing Michigan as a "must-win" state for Romney. Apparently they did not read yesterday's Smart Politics blog entry!

7:52 p.m. Looking ahead for just a moment to the GOP Nevada caucuses, which will be held this Thursday, a new poll by American Research Group was just released tonight showing Romney on top with 28 percent, followed by McCain at 21 percent, Thompson at 13 percent, Giuliani at 11 percent, Paul at 9 percent, Huckabee at 8 percent, and Hunter with 0 percent. In an ARG poll of likely Nevada caucus voters six weeks ago, Huckabee polled at 23 percent in second place.

7:54 p.m. (6 percent reporting)
Romney = 37%
McCain = 31%
Huckabee = 16%
Paul = 6%
Thompson = 4%
Giuliani = 3%
Hunter = 0%
Uncommitted = 3%

8:00 p.m. Fox News has called the Republican race for Mitt Romney.

8:01 p.m. CNN has called the Republican race for Mitt Romney.

8:03 p.m. Fox News analyst Mort Kondracke now states Michigan was a "critical" state for McCain to win and that McCain had expected to win the state after his triumph in the Granite State.

8:05 p.m. (10 percent reporting)
Romney = 37%
McCain = 31%
Huckabee = 17%
Paul = 6%
Thompson = 4%
Giuliani = 3%
Hunter = 0%
Uncommitted = 3%

8:06 p.m. CNN exit polling shows Romney beat McCain by nearly a 2 to 1 margin among conservatives in Michigan.

8:13 p.m. Mike Huckabee is speaking live and announces he is the "first in the South candidate" and is going to win South Carolina. You would not know it from the amount of media coverage, but there will be 42 percent more delegates at stake for the GOP in the Nevada caucuses (34) than the South Carolina primary (24).

8:15 p.m. (14 percent reporting)
Romney = 37%
McCain = 31%
Huckabee = 17%
Paul = 6%
Thompson = 4%
Giuliani = 3%
Hunter = 0%
Uncommitted = 2%

8:20 p.m. Huckabee's new 'southern strategy' looks promising at the moment: he is polling strong in South Carolina, Florida, as well as a new poll released today in Alabama (Huckabee 25%, McCain 22%, Thompson 9%, Romney 8%, Giuliani 5%, Paul 3%).

8:23 p.m. In Romney's "victory speech" in Michigan he states he takes his inspiration from Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. He is still playing the 'change' card - stating, sleeves rolled up and suit jacket off, that lobbyists and politicians are worried about the change that is to come (in the form of a Romney presidency). In an interesting, if delicate, twist to tonight's proceedings, John McCain had only spoke about one minute in South Carolina before Romney came to the microphone in Michigan (McCain had also cut off the end of Mike Huckabee's speech). The media had to cut away from McCain for the victor, as is custom. It is no secret that there is acrimony between the two campaigns, and one wonders if Romney decided to speak at that moment knowing McCain would get booted off the airwaves. Or, perhaps, Romney didn't want to waste one minute before jetting to South Carolina to start campaigning there.

8:27 p.m. (23 percent reporting)
Romney = 39%
McCain = 30%
Huckabee = 16%
Paul = 6%
Thompson = 4%
Giuliani = 3%
Hunter = 0%
Uncommitted = 2%

8:35 p.m. It will be interesting to see what the final victory margin is for Romney. The current margin is 9 points, with 27 percent reporting - much larger than anyone projected (let alone those pundits and polls who projected McCain would win the state). Mike Huckabee certainly got a lot of mileage in Iowa for how large his victory was over Romney. Not much has been made of the current Romney-McCain margin in the media coverage tonight as of yet.

8:47 p.m. If the current results hold, the Real Clear Politics average of six polls in Michigan got the GOP place order finish correct. RCP's average had Romney with 29 percent, McCain with 26 percent, Huckabee with 16 percent, Paul with 6 percent, Thompson with 5 percent, and Giuliani with 4 percent.

8:55 p.m. Wtih Ron Paul holding on to 4th place in Michigan he will have beaten Fred Thompson in two states (New Hampshire and Michigan), Rudy Giuliani in one state (Michigan), and Duncan Hunter in three states (Iowa, New Hampshire, and Michigan). How long the well-funded Paul, who is performing above expectations, will stay in the race is uncertain. Many expect the Texas Congressman to bolt for an independent or third-party presidential bid.

8:58 p.m. (48 percent reporting)
Romney = 39%
McCain = 30%
Huckabee = 16%
Paul = 6%
Thompson = 4%
Giuliani = 3%
Hunter = 0%
Uncommitted = 2%

9:12 p.m. While Romney leads in the latest Nevada poll, he trails McCain and Huckabee in the latest Rasmussen, Fox News, and Insider Advantage South Carolina polls ending during the past week. As Michigan has never before held its primary so early, the phrase "Michigan bounce" has not exactly been coined, so it is remains to be seen what impact, if any, Romney's second win of the campaign will have down south on Saturday.

9:14 p.m. (58 percent reporting)
Romney = 39%
McCain = 30%
Huckabee = 16%
Paul = 6%
Thompson = 4%
Giuliani = 3%
Hunter = 0%
Uncommitted = 2%

With nearly 60 percent of the vote in, the Romney-McCain-Huckabee margins remain very consistent. Smart Politics will post the final Michigan number later tonight.

10:00 p.m. (81 percent reporting)
Romney = 39%
McCain = 30%
Huckabee = 16%
Paul = 6%
Thompson = 4%
Giuliani = 3%
Hunter = 0%
Uncommitted = 2%

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