400-plus delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday

March 6, 2012 at 9:39 PM
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COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 6 (UPI) -- Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were in a close battle in Ohio and splitting up several other states in the Republican Super Tuesday presidential primary.

Voters in 10 states went to the polls Tuesday in an attempt to provide clarity in a still cloudy Republican presidential nominating race.

Early returns in Ohio showed with 1858 of 9,421 precincts (19.72 percent) in, Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, had 39.45 percent (132,568) to 35.13 percent (118,049) for Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia was third with 15.29 percent (51,383) and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was fourth with 8.79 percent (29,540). Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who have pulled out of the race, each polled less than 1 percent.

Romney won the Massachusetts primary as well as those in Virginia and Vermont. Santorum claimed victories in Tennessee and Oklahoma, while Gingrich took Georgia, electoral returns indicated.

Speaking to supporters in Steubenville, Santorum said Ohio was "still too close to call," but said "as it looks right now, we're going to get at least a couple of gold medals and a whole passel of silver medals."

Romney was projected by CNN to have won in Virginia based on exit polls and partial results, while The Washington Post said exit polls indicated he was headed to a win in Massachusetts. The Washington Post said turnout was reported to be light in Virginia, where only Romney and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas qualified for the state's primary.

When the polls closed in Georgia, CNN projected Gingrich would win in his home state. He held a commanding lead in polls in Georgia, which he represented for years in Congress, and is hoping for a good showing -- perhaps a win or two -- to revive his candidacy.

Addressing supporters in Atlanta, Gingrich said his victory in Georgia showed "Wall Street money can be beaten by Main Street work."

"I hope the analysts in Washington and New York who spent June and July explaining our campaign was dead will watch this tonight and learn a little bit from this crowd and from this place," he said. "We survived the national elites' effort to kill us in the summer because of you."

"Tuesday is going to be a mixed bag, and I think the race will go on," he had told CNN earlier Tuesday. "There won't be any decisive winner Tuesday."

He told CNN losing Georgia could end his campaign and acknowledged for the first time winning only Georgia and no other states Tuesday "puts me in a more difficult position."

Romney and Rick Santorum, the two leading contenders for the GOP nomination, were in a dead heat going into Tuesday's primary in Ohio, the state known as a bellwether for presidential elections, polls indicated.

Romney, speaking in Zanesville, Ohio, ahead of the Super Tuesday primary, said he was the only candidate who could fix the economy "because I've actually been in it," while Santorum worked to raise new concerns about Romney's conservative bone fides, the Post reported.

"The underlying problem that I hear when I talk to people all over -- they say they just don't trust Mitt Romney to not do what's the fashionable thing at the moment," Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, said during a conference call with reporters.

Up for grabs are 437 delegates in Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming. Alaska, North Dakota and Idaho are conducting caucuses and the other seven are holding primaries.

A candidate needs 1,144 delegates to secure the GOP presidential nomination during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in August.

The New York Times said voters interviewed Tuesday at the polls in Ohio were split between candidates but were unanimous that the Republican nominee must be someone who is able to defeat President Barack Obama in November.

"I'd pick the geese in the parking lot before I'd pick Obama," one woman told the newspaper.

Santorum traveled to Washington Tuesday to address the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, while Romney and Gingrich spoke to the pro-Israel lobbying group by video link.

Nationally, a RealClearPolitics.com average of polls from Feb. 29-March 4 said Romney is up by 12.7 percentage points, 38.7 percent to 26 percent, over Santorum. Gingrich is third with 14.7 percent and Paul had 12.3 percent.

A Rasmussen Reports poll released Tuesday indicated 65 percent of likely U.S. voters said they believe Romney likely will win the GOP nomination, up from 54 percent a week earlier.

Fourteen percent said they expected Santorum to claim the nomination, down from 24 percent in the previous survey. Gingrich and Paul pulled single digits, 5 percent and 3 percent, respectively, while 8 percent of likely voters said they were undecided.

Results are based on a nationwide telephone survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted Saturday and Sunday. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.

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