Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum heads to Michigan next week with four wins under his belt, but supporters of Mitt Romney says Michigan is still "Romney country."
Santorum, 53, is the featured speaker at the Oakland County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner Feb. 16, and his multi-state victories in GOP nominating contests for president set up a showdown in the Michigan primary Feb. 28.
"It certainly has created a buzz in Republican circles," says Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who is part of Romney's campaign in Michigan.
Patterson still predicts a victory by Romney in the Michigan primary, but perhaps not by as large a margin as what he and other Republicans would have predicted before Santorum's surge in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota.
"This is still Romney country," Patterson said. "Romney's still the guy to beat in Michigan. I will predict a victory for Romney, I just can't say it'll be 2 to 1. That would be a can of whoop-ass."
Santorum is the latest in the field of Republicans to surge, staking out the position as the conservative alternative to Romney.
Santorum, who has a law degree, was elected to the U.S. House in 1990 and the U.S. Senate in 1994, representing Pennsylvania and serving two six-year terms.
Romney, 64, is the son of former Michigan Gov. George Romney and grew up in Michigan. He was the CEO of the 2002 Olympic Committee and founder and CEO of Bain Capital. The former Massachusetts governor resides in that state.
Also still in the running is former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, from Virginia, and Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.
At least on the surface, Santorum has victories in Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and a narrow win in Iowa. Romney has won New Hampshire, Florida and Nevada. Gingrich won in South Carolina.
Romney's narrow win Saturday in Maine doesn't bind delegates to the winner, meaning Michigan's primary Feb. 28, and Arizona's, is the next time the candidates can gain delegates.
There were no delegates awarded in Minnesota, Colorado or Missouri either, and Romney still leads in the race to get 1,144 delegates and the Republican nomination to run against President Barack Obama.
Real Clear Politics Friday listed Romney with 90 delegates to 44 for Santorum, 32 for Gingrich and 13 for Paul.
What Santorum got from his three-state win was a bit of fundraising momentum while Republicans clearly indicated they're still not sold on Romney as the eventual nominee.
The latest Michigan poll of 638 likely Republican voters by Mitchell Research taken Feb. 2 shows Romney favored by 31 percent followed by Gingrich at 16 percent, Paul at 15 percent and Santorum at 15 percent.
What impact Michigan's primary will have is debatable.
Voters can request either a Republican or Democrat ballot, and Republicans fear the results could be skewed since Democrats will formally select Obama as their nominee at caucus in May and can cast Republican ballots in the primary.
Patterson says there's an active effort to encourage Democrats to cast ballots for Paul, the Texas congressman.
But Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, says that's not so.
The Michigan Democratic Party does not encourage anyone to cross over in any primary," Brewer said. "The fact is, it happens. Republicans have crossed over into our primary and Democrats have crossed over into theirs.
"Officially, we don't encourage it," he said. "We believe Democrats should nominate Democrats and Republicans should nominate Republicans."