Rick Santorum will take the fight for the Republican presidential nomination to Mitt Romney in Michigan, a state where Romney grew up and his father served as governor.

"We're heading to Michigan," Santorum said on MSNBC Wednesday morning, the day after he swept caucuses in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. "We think Michigan is a great place for us to plant our flag and talk about jobs and opportunities for everybody in America to rise."

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The state, which votes on Feb. 28, could be a must-win for Romney to remain the front-runner. If he loses the state, which many perceive to be home turf for him one week before Super Tuesday, on March 6, it will reinforce the idea that he is beatable and struggles with his party's conservative base.

Santorum has showed considerable strength with evangelical Christians, blue-collar voters and Tea Party supporters, all of whom are a major presence in Michigan — and with which Romney has struggled in the past. But Romney is counting on his family connections, deep pockets and strong infrastructure in the state to carry him through.


Alex Castellanos, a 2008 Romney strategist who is neutral in this year's primary, said that Romney needs to be concerned about the state. "It was a long time ago that his dad was governor and that is a very conservative primary," he said. "Michigan isn't Detroit in GOP primaries, it's Grand Rapids. It's the home of AmWay, very conservative. I wouldn't put up a red light for him there but I'd put up a yellow light."

Romney's campaign was bowled over in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri after spending little time and money in the states, and is unlikely to make the same mistake in Michigan and Arizona, which votes on the same day.

While Romney will have the big edge in money and organization there, he could have some weaknesses in the state. Romney came out strongly against the auto bailout, penning an op-ed in 2008 titled "Let Detroit go bankrupt."

Many Republicans in other parts of the state have some animosity towards Detroit, which could help neutralize the issue for him in the state's primary. Santorum also opposed the bailouts, which many view as having saved the auto industry. But the issue could hurt Romney with those in the state tied to manufacturing, including the so-called socially conservative "Reagan Democrats" that have been backing Santorum over him.