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Rich voters love Romney

March 14, 2012: 12:20 PM ET

The 2012 Republican primary contest has been defined by a series of roller-coaster lead changes. At various points, 11 different contenders have led national polls.

But one demographic group -- the wealthy -- seems to have settled on a candidate.

And their man is Mitt Romney.

On Tuesday, Romney lost to Rick Santorum in both Alabama and Mississippi. But among individuals making more than $100,000, he received more votes than his competitors.

In Alabama, Romney took home 36% of top earners, which is 5 points more than Santorum, and 11 points more than Newt Gingrich.

The story was much the same in Mississippi, where the former Massachusetts governor won votes from 34% of individuals who reported incomes above $100,000. Santorum won among voters making between $50,000 and $100,000, while Gingrich had his best showing with those making less than $50,000.

The contrast is even more striking in states like Michigan and Ohio, where Romney did well enough to win the primaries.

In his home state of Michigan, Romney won 48% of primary voters making more than $100,000. Santorum was second with 34%. Gingrich and Ron Paul weren't even close.

Romney won 46% of top earners in Ohio -- beating Santorum by 14 points.

In Georgia, where every candidate in the field was trounced by Gingrich, Romney still won among voters making more than $200,000 (Gingrich won when the limit was extended down to $100,000.)

Romney's success with the wealthy underscores another trend: He is not having particularly good luck with people on the other end of the pay scale. In both Michigan and Ohio, Romney's score among the wealthy was 12 points higher than with individuals making less than $50,000.

On Wednesday, that spread narrowed, but Romney still did much better with top earners.

Although talk of Romney's personal wealth has died down in recent weeks, it was a major issue on the campaign trail in January and February after Romney released select tax returns and his record at private equity firm Bain Capital came under scrutiny.

According to candidate disclosure forms filed with the Federal Election Commission, Romney is worth between $85 and $264 million.

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About This Author
Charles Riley
Charles Riley
Reporter, CNNMoney

Charles Riley lives and works in Hong Kong, where he covers markets, economics and other high-impact stories across Asia. He previously worked for CNNMoney in New York and CNN in Washington. He tweets @CRrileyCNN

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