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Santorum, Romney Continue to Battle for Republican Nomination

Republican presidential candidates, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum argue a point during a Republican presidential debate, Mesa, Arizona, February 22, 2012.

U.S. Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney are in a tight race in Michigan, while Romney is enjoying a lead in Arizona, ahead of primary elections in those states next week.

An average of polls in Michigan produced by RealClearPolitics shows Santorum and Romney in an extremely competitive race with 33.8 % support and 33.2 % support, as contenders Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul trail far behind. In Arizona, the average shows Romney with an eight-point lead over Santorum's 30 percent support.

However, an average of national polls for the Republican nomination shows Santorum has a clear lead, with nearly 34 percent support, over Romney's 28 percent.

The Republican candidates took part in a nationally televised debate Wednesday night in Arizona, for their first such meet-up since January.

Santorum and Romney argued about each other's record on government spending.

Romney said Santorum had voted five times to increase the maximum debt the U.S. could have, a point he has repeated on the campaign trail. Santorum countered that Romney had said he supported a debt ceiling increase last summer and wanted to raise taxes on the top one percent of U.S. earners, which Romney denied.

Texas Representative Ron Paul accused Santorum of being a "fake" conservative who professed one stance while campaigning, did something different while in office, then pledged to repeal programs he had supported.

Political analysts say the debate could leave a strong impression on voters in Arizona and Michigan.

Then, on March 6, voters in 10 states head to the polls in what is known as "Super Tuesday," as they choose a challenger to take on President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in November's general election.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.