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Romney Victory in Michigan Primary Scrambles Republican Presidential Race


Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's victory in the Michigan primary on Tuesday has added another dose of uncertainty to a wide open race for the Republican Party's presidential nomination. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview of what is ahead for both parties in the presidential race from Washington.

Romney told CBS television that voter concerns about the economy were the key to his victory in Michigan.

"You are seeing people across the country very concerned about the economy, very concerned about their job, about whether they are going to keep their health care or not," said Romney. "And they want somebody who understands how the economy works, who knows why jobs come, why they go."

Romney is the third Republican to win a primary or caucus contest in the state-by-state competition for delegates needed to win the party's presidential nomination in September at the national convention in Minnesota.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses on January 3, and last week Senator John McCain of Arizona won the New Hampshire primary.

McCain had hoped his New Hampshire victory would carry him to victory in Michigan, but now realizes it will be a drawn-out fight for the Republican nomination.

"For a minute there in New Hampshire, I thought this campaign might be getting easier," McCain said. "But you know what? We have gotten pretty good at doing things the hard way, too, and I think we have shown them we do not mind a fight."

The Republican battle now shifts to the South Carolina primary on Saturday, the first contest to be held in the South.

That should favor southerners Huckabee and former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee, who experts say needs a strong showing in South Carolina to remain in the race.

Huckabee is hoping for a strong turnout from conservative Christian voters in South Carolina, the same group that helped propel him to victory in Iowa.

But Huckabee acknowledged in an interview with MSNBC television that the Republican nomination battle is far from settled.

"It is very wide open and I think that makes it more exciting for you guys," said Huckabee. "I would frankly kind of like to see this get to the point where I just win. That would be great. But it is probably not going to happen all of a sudden."

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani is hoping to make his mark on the Republican race in the Florida primary on January 29.

Rutgers University political analyst Ross Baker says Republicans are unaccustomed to such a wide open race for the party's presidential nomination.

"Republicans are extremely well-disciplined people and normally there is an acknowledged frontrunner who invariably comes out on top," said Baker. "Democrats are much more unpredictable. So, this is an unusual year for the Republicans and I think the party is experiencing some discomfort."

Meanwhile, the Democratic presidential contenders are focused on the Nevada party caucuses on Saturday.

During a debate in Las Vegas that was broadcast on MSNBC, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and former senator John Edwards stepped back from a divisive debate over race and tried to refocus the campaign on other issues.

Clinton said many of the voters she talks to are worried about the economy.

"An economy that I believe is slipping toward recession, with the results already being felt here in Nevada, with the highest home foreclosure rate in the entire country," said Clinton.

Washington - based political expert Stuart Rothenberg says the economy is a growing issue for voters in both parties.

"On the Democratic side, absolutely the economy, still the war in Iraq, and health care," said Rothenberg. "And on the Republican side absolutely the economy, certainly the war against terror and the war in Iraq, but also immigration. The economy a year or two ago did not look it was going to be up there as a top tier issue, and right now it looks like it could be emerging as the number-one issue in both parties."

Clinton and Obama are locked in a tight race in Nevada and are looking for a win to build political momentum for the rest of the upcoming caucuses and primaries.

Obama won the Iowa caucuses, but Clinton rebounded last week with a victory in the New Hampshire primary.

After Nevada, the Democrats face a critical primary test in South Carolina on January 26, where nearly half the voters are African-American.

White House contenders from both parties are also gearing up for the biggest single day of primary and caucus votes on February 5, when 22 states hold contests.

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