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Why Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum may both win in Michigan

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Jim Young/Reuters

(Read caption) Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum greets patrons at the Rainbow Grill in Grandville, Michigan, Tuesday, Feb. 28.

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There will be an overall winner of the Michigan GOP primary – either Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney will take a majority of votes statewide and give a victory speech after that margin is clear. The media will allocate momentum based on this result, saying that Mr. Romney, or Mr. Santorum, has the wind at his back heading into next week’s crucial Super Tuesday votes.

But here’s Michigan’s secret: That result will almost certainly be overhyped. When it comes to delegates, the state is not winner-take-all. As a result of complicated allocation rules, it is possible for the popular-vote victor in the state’s Republican primary to emerge with fewer delegates than the loser.

Furthermore, it looks now as if both Santorum and Romney will win at least some of the state’s delegates to this summer's national convention in Tampa, Fla. That means that, in a strategic sense, the “winner” of the Michigan race won’t win much of an edge at all.

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