TUCSON, Ariz. — Mitt Romney cruised to victory in Arizona’s Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, easily defeating Rick Santorum, his nearest rival.
There was little surprise when the networks called the race for Romney as soon as polls closed. Polls in Arizona in the days leading up to the primary showed the former Massachusetts governor with a lead of about 15 points over Santorum.
With 42 percent of precincts reporting in Arizona, Romney had 49 percent to Santorum's 25 percent. Newt Gingrich was in third with 16 percent, followed by Ron Paul with 9 percent.
Romney’s support in Arizona was bolstered by an endorsement from Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.), and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who is running for Senate, campaigned vigorously on his behalf. Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) lent his support, too, to his 2008 rival.
Romney has also been a stalwart supporter of Arizona’s tough immigration law, which Republicans in the state overwhelmingly support. And the state’s sizable Mormon population was also expected to boost his numbers in the state.
Caught in the shadow of a higher-stakes primary the same day in Michigan, the race here attracted little attention from the GOP hopefuls — and in turn, from the state’s voters. There were few yard signs, campaign events or other indications of a presidential campaign. Even the state’s newspapers glossed over the approaching primary on their front pages.
The candidates were in Arizona on Wednesday for the last scheduled debate of the primary, but left for other states the next day and did not return.
Unlike in Michigan, Arizona’s 29 delegates will be awarded in a winner-take-all fashion, meaning Romney will claim the state’s entire prize.
Exit polls in Arizona showed that Romney performed better than his rivals among both men and women, and among all ages and education levels. He won every income level except for those who earn less than $30,000.
- This story was posted at 9:01 p.m. and has been updated.