Mitt Romney is fighting his way back into the driving seat in the Republican presidential race, putting in a strong debate performance in Arizona and gaining in polls against conservative rival Rick Santorum.
An aggressive Romney repeatedly put Santorum on the defensive in a CNN debate on Wednesday and attacked the former U.S. senator and staunch social conservative for supporting big-spending government programs.
Romney has also battled his way into a slight lead in a new poll in Michigan, which along with Arizona will hold a primary contest on February 28. Romney had trailed Santorum by as much as double digits a week ago in the Michigan race.
The pace of the Republican race quickens dramatically next month, with 22 state nominating contests in March, including 10 on "Super Tuesday" March 6.
Santorum may have missed his chance at Wednesday's debate.
"Santorum needed a strong performance in the debate and he didn't get it," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said. "All eyes were on him. He had an opening and he missed it."