Mitt Romney is coming home _ this time as the likely Republican presidential nominee.
"I think Michigan's a state I can win," a relaxed, jovial Romney told reporters on his campaign plane as he left Iowa en route to his home state, the final stop on a five-day, six-state Midwestern tour.
Asked if carrying the state in November would carry special meaning, Romney said, "If I win in Michigan, then I become the president, and that would mean a lot to me personally."
Romney is the former governor of Massachusetts, but he was born in Michigan and raised in the suburbs outside Detroit. His father, George Romney, ran a car company _ American Motors Corp. _ and went on to run the state as governor.
In 1968, George Romney tried _ and failed _ to win the Republican presidential nomination, a prize his son is set to be officially awarded at the Republican National Convention in August. It's been a long journey that began nearly six years ago, when Mitt Romney launched his unsuccessful bid for the 2008 GOP nod.
Michigan is one of several states that could make the difference in November. It's not on his campaign's list of top targets _ that's reserved for what the campaign sees as traditionally Republican states like Virginia and North Carolina and swing states like Ohio and Florida.
But it's one of a number of Rust Belt states President Barack Obama won in 2008 where Romney's campaign team sees an opportunity.
"There's another level of states that are all states that Obama won last time," said deputy campaign manager Katie Packer Gage, a Michigan native. "And he won't win if he doesn't win them again."
Romney faces an uphill climb in Michigan: There's a strong Democratic base in Detroit, and he's already struggling to explain his opposition to the federal bailout that saved General Motors and Chrysler.
He has three campaign stops in Michigan on Tuesday.
Romney's 2012 campaign has been filled with regular reminders of his Michigan roots. George Romney's photo was tacked to the wall in the campaign bus through the primary. Supporters come to campaign rallies armed with Romney `68 memorabilia and stories about volunteering on his father's presidential campaign.
Romney has talked about his love for Vernors, a distinctive ginger ale that's popular in Michigan and has strong carbonation that sometimes prompts sneezing. When he campaigned here during the primary, Romney was ridiculed for affectionately saying that in Michigan, "the trees are the right height." Continued...