MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. -- Stopping short of an endorsement, Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak said Saturday that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stands a better chance than Texas Gov. Rick Perry of defeating President Obama in this battleground state.
"I think Romney has the edge here," Schostak told reporters. "He's the one to beat."
Both Romney and Perry were scheduled to address the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference at this island resort later Saturday. They are early front-runners in the GOP nomination race.
Romney's father, George Romney, served as Michigan's governor from 1963 to 1969. Schostak said Romney's family name and Michigan roots would give him an upper hand in Michigan should he win the nomination and face Obama.
"There's a strong connection there," he said of Mitt Romney, who was raised in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Obama won Michigan in 2008 by 16 percentage points over Republican John McCain. It had been considered a state that could tilt to the GOP until the economy collapsed late in the campaign. It is hard to imagine Obama winning re-election without carrying Michigan.
Schostak did throw Perry a bone, saying that Michigan voters are likely to sympathize with his immigration policies. Perry rivals, including Romney, have accused the Texan of being soft on immigration.