Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts, consolidated his position as the frontrunner in the Republican presidential nominee race as he swept up important victories in primary contests in his home State of Michigan and in Arizona on Tuesday.

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Staving off a fierce challenge in both States from the former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, Mr. Romney garnered slightly over 41 per cent of the vote in Michigan and 47.3 per cent of the vote in Arizona. Mr. Santorum won nearly 38 per cent and 26.6 per cent respectively, garnering second place in both States.

Possibly indicating the White House's expectation that Mr. Romney may ultimately win the nomination, President Barack Obama, during a speech to the United Auto Workers labour union, referenced a 2008 op-ed by Mr. Romney titled “Let Detroit go Bankrupt”. “Think about what that choice would have meant for this country,” said Mr. Obama, adding, “All of you, the men and women who built [General Motors, Chrysler and Ford] with your own hands, would have been hung out to dry.”

A jubilant Mr. Romney said in Detroit, “Great victory in Arizona. Thank you, Michigan. What a win. This is a big night. A week ago the pundits and the pollsters were ready to count us out.”

Mr. Santorum similarly underscored the surge in popularity he has enjoyed over the last few rounds, saying, “A month ago they didn't know who we are... They do now.”

Mr. Romney's sweep of Arizona will net him all 29 delegates moving him a step closer to the 1,144 total that he needs to secure the nomination. In Michigan the 30 delegates will be distributed on a proportional basis.

Both candidates and others still in the race — including libertarian Ron Paul and the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich — will now be focussed on “Super Tuesday” on March 6 when a total of 10 States will head to the polls and the candidates will be competing for 400 delegates.

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