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Romney, Santorum buoyed for Super Tuesday

A victorious Mitt Romney and runner-up Rick Santorum both claimed satisfaction from the close Michigan primary Wednesday as they swiftly shifted their duel for the Republican presidential nomination to Ohio and the rest of next week's delegate-rich Super Tuesday contests.

Campaigning in Bexley, Ohio, Romney promised "more jobs, less debt and a smaller government" if he wins the nomination and defeats President Obama in the fall. "Interestingly, the people who said that the economy and jobs were their No. 1 issue, they voted for me, overwhelmingly" in the Michigan primary, he said.

Santorum saw the events of the previous 24 hours differently, having won half of the 30 delegates in his rival's home state primary even though he lost the popular vote. "We had a much better night in Michigan than maybe was first reported," he said while campaigning in Tennessee.

While Santorum contended that the race to pick an opponent for Obama was down to two men, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul had other ideas as they set their own priorities for the 10 contests on Super Tuesday.

Romney caused a stir while campaigning in Ohio on Wednesday when he said he opposes a Republican-backed plan to let employers opt out of providing health coverage for contraception -- and then quickly moved to stress his support for the measure.

The proposal, scheduled for a U.S. Senate vote today, would undo an Obama health care rule requiring insurers to cover contraception without charge for insured employees, even at religiously affiliated institutions. Conservatives have rallied around the proposed exemption, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who backs Romney in the party's presidential race. "I'm not for the bill," Romney said in a TV interview.

Keith Appell, a GOP strategist working with a coalition of groups pressing for passage of the Blunt measure, said Romney's remarks would "infuriate" conservatives if it were his true position. In a later radio interview, Romney said he "didn't understand" the question, "and, of course, I support the Blunt amendment."

Obama's re-election campaign, too, was quick to exploit Romney's comments.

"In one hour, Mitt Romney showed why women don't trust him for one minute. It took little more than an hour for him to commit his latest flip-flop. Even worse, he ended up on the wrong side of an issue of critical importance to women," Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said.