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Michigan Voters to Decide Tight Republican Primary Race


Voters are at the polls in Michigan - polls close at 8PM-EST in all but four counties - to determine whether native son Mitt Romney or independent-favorite John McCain will emerge victorious in the Republican primary. Early numbers show Romney with a slim lead over McCain. VOA's Greg Flakus has more from Detroit.

As voters trudged through freezing weather to the polls, the candidates made last minute appearances around the state, seeking to influence people who have not yet decided and urge supporters to get out and vote.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has a lot at stake here. He was born here and remained a Michigan resident until he was 18 years old. His father was a popular governor and he reminded voters of that at a last-minute rally Tuesday.

"I think Michigan is going to vote for a Romney again. I am planning on it," he said.

But public opinion polls show Romney in a very close race with Arizona Senator John McCain, who also toured the state Tuesday urging his supporters to get out and vote. Analysts say McCain could survive a loss here and go on to win other states, but that a loss for Romney could sidetrack his drive to the nomination. Romney lost to former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in the Iowa caucuses on January third and to Senator McCain in the New Hampshire primary five days later. A third loss in his birth state would be a hard blow.

But Romney discounts such talk, saying he is in it for the long haul come what may. His campaign advisors also note that Michigan could produce a skewed result because it is an open primary in which Democrats and independents can vote on the Republican ballot. There is no real contest on the Democrat side here because Senator Hillary Clinton is the only major candidate who kept her name on the ballot after Michigan moved up its primary in violation of party rules. Senator Barack Obama and former Senator John Edwards took their names off the ballot.