Locked in a close race, Mitt Romney is predicting victory in Michigan’s critical primary.

He’s hoping to prevent an unexpected loss to rival Rick Santorum in the state where the former Massachusetts governor was born and raised.

Romney has spent the past five days campaigning hard for votes in Michigan’s primary on Tuesday, selling himself as a native son steeped in the auto industry that has defined the state for decades.

He has a strong lead in Arizona, which also votes Tuesday.

Romney has had to play catch-up in Michigan after losses to Santorum on Feb. 8 in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado. A loss in Michigan would seriously damage the campaign of the on-again, off-again front-runner and probably stretch an already lengthy GOP nominating contest even more.

Santorum Michigan success tied to Democrats

Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum is courting an unusual coalition of tea party activists, social conservatives and Democrats to try to defeat Mitt Romney in Tuesday’s Michigan primary.

Santorum is known for unflinching conservative views on social issues. But on the eve of Tuesday’s primary in Romney’s native state, Santorum used automated telephone calls to appeal to Michigan Democrats.

Only declared Republicans may vote in Tuesday’s GOP primary, but party rules allow voters to change their affiliation temporarily on the spot.

Santorum’s “robocall” says Democrats should send “a loud message” to Romney by voting for Santorum.

Recent polls suggest the Michigan contest is essentially a tossup, despite Romney’s strong ties to the state. He was born and raised in Michigan, where his father served as governor.

Gingrich targeting Super Tuesday states

ATLANTA (AP) — Plotting a comeback, Newt Gingrich is looking beyond Tuesday’s Republican primaries in Michigan and Arizona and counting on Southern voters to rejuvenate his struggling presidential campaign.

Gingrich is pinning his hopes on winning Georgia and showing strength in Tennessee, Oklahoma and other Super Tuesday states voting March 6. The former House speaker is starting a three-day bus tour in Georgia, which he represented in Congress for 20 years, to fend off rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

By skipping Michigan and Arizona, Gingrich is betting that one of his rivals will emerge from Tuesday’s primaries a weaker candidate, giving Gingrich a chance to become the main alternative to the front-runner and claw his way back into the topsy-turvy race.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)