WELCOME TO OUR live coverage of results as voters in ten US states decide which one of the four Republican Party candidates they want to face Barack Obama in the November presidential election.
With 437 delegates at stake or around 40 per cent of what is needed to secure the nomination, there’s plenty for Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul to compete for. Here’s a quick guide to the candidates and here’s what a caucus is.
We’ll be updating you with the latest developments on what is known as ‘Super Tuesday’ in the US as well as bring you the state results right into the small hours of Wednesday morning. Stay in touch by leaving a comment below. Let’s do this.
- Mitt Romney pulls ahead of Rick Santorum in tight Ohio battle.
- Newt Gingrich wins Georgia.
- Romney wins Virginia, Vermont, Massachusetts and Idaho
- Santorum wins Oklahoma, Tennessee, and North Dakota
- Alaska still to report
22.48 – To boil it down as to what to look out for tonight, the big one is Ohio. The old saying ‘As goes Ohio, so goes the nation’ (which is often applied to other US states) is not relevant in this instance as we are at the mere primary stage but if former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney were to emerge victorious here it would be an indication that he is on course the secure the nomination he has just not been able to wrap up over the past three months.
That’s because of the hard-fought campaign of former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum who has accrued smaller victories but enough delegates to put the heebie jeebies in the Romney camp. The pair are virtually tied in pre-ballot polls in Ohio. So if Santorum wins, it really is game-on.
As for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas congressman Ron Paul, they remain in the race but both are extremely unlikely to win the nomination. Tonight, Gingrich will to win his home state of Georgia, which carries the most delegates (76), while Paul will hope for strong performances in the three caucuses in Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota.
22.53 – Another interesting state tonight is Virginia where only two of the four candidates still in the race are actually on the ballot paper. Mitt Romney is virtually assured victory and perhaps all of the State’s delegates (49) as both Santorum and Gingrich failed to file the relevant paper work in time to make the ballot paper. Normally Virginia can be a key swing state that is the marquee contest on Super Tuesday. Not so tonight.
23.01 – CBS News has done some Super Tuesday exit polls and reports that “defeating Obama is the candidate quality that mattered most to those voting in primaries today”.
That bodes well for Romney who for all his campaign gaffes and apparent conservative flaws appears to have the political machine and centrist tendencies to give Obama a run for his money in the autumn. Santorum’s at times extreme social conservatism could count against him, many feel.
All that said this contest has been a bruising one or in the words of Barbara, husband of President George HW and mother of President Geroge W, “the worst campaign I’ve ever seen in my life,” as she told a conference in Dallas today. Ouch.
23.08 – Here’s Mitt Romney voting in his home state of Massachusetts a short time ago. I say home-state, he has a number of home states. He was governor of Massachusetts, but he grew up Michigan and also has a home in New Hampshire. Anyway, here’s Mitt in fine spirits with his missus, Ann:
23.20 – No sign of any pictures of Newt Gingrich voting in his home state of Georgia on the wires but here he is looking a little shady at a campaign event in Tennessee, where he hopes to do well, on Monday:
23.25 – A commenter points out that this liveblog is neglecting the most important race of the day.
That is the primary vote in the ninth congressional district of Ohio where Joe Wurzelbacher aka Joe the Plumber is favourite to win the Republican nomination. He even has the backing of one-time presidential hopeful Herman Cain.
Who is the Joe the Plumber you ask? Well he shot to stardom, inexplicably, in 2008 after grilling Barack Obama on the campaign trail:
23.33 – I said earlier that there was no sign of Newt Gingrich voting in his home state of Georgia and that’s because he doesn’t live there. Doh. Though he was the congressman in the state’s 6th district for 20 years including his time as House Speaker, he and third wife Callista actually live in Virginia.
And Politico reports that he and Mrs Gingrich ain’t voting there either. Why? Well because he isn’t on the ballot as we reported earlier. Scarlet for them.
“In this Republican primary, when given a choice between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney [who are both on the ballot], they could not pick either one,” Gingrich campaign spokesperson RC Hammond told NBC News.
23.48 – Apologies, Georgia‘s polls are also closing at midnight, less than 15 minutes away. Newt Gingrich simply must win there otherwise he should be prepping his concession speech.
0.15 – The very latest polls from Virginia make “folks a little nervous” Mike Allen says on Politico’s live coverage. In reality, Virginia should go to Romney despite some networks dilly dallying. The Times’ Nico Hines says it straight:
0.24 – Breaking away from our Super Tuesday coverage for just a minute, there has been a serious shooting Kildare tonight in which two men have died, here’s the details.
0.25 – The Associated Press says that Mitt Romney has won Virginia.
0.44 – Ron Paul is speaking to supporters in North Dakota. His supporters shout “End the Fed! End the Fed” referring to the US Federal Reserve. He wants to end all wars and cut loads of spending. Loads.
0.49 – “Touching that Ron Paul is wearing the tie his wife gave him for Christmas in 1973,” says veteran US correspondent Tony Harnden on Twitter. Is it really? Judge for yourself:
1.11 – Rick Santorum is doing well in Tennessee too and although no network appears to have called that for him, he leads Mitt Romney who ranks in second place and Newt Gingrich in third place.
Mitt Romney has taken Massachusetts, where he was once the governor, with a massive 70 per cent of the vote it would seem. The largest margin we have yet seen in this current race.
1.15 – Tennessee would be a good win for Rick Santorum and a CNN exit poll there suggests that he leads with 35 per cent of the vote, Romney 28 per cent, and Gingrich on 23 per cent.
1.34 – Karl Rove has a very oval-shaped head. He ran George W Bush’s two successful presidential campaigns. “So far everybody is going to be able to walk away with something to brag about,” he tells Sky News. “You ought to just sit back watch and enjoy it,” he says to criticism of this whole primary process.
1.35 – Now the, NBC News is projecting that Rick Santorum will win Tennessee. That would be a very good win indeed for the former Pennsylvania senator.
Meanwhile, Karl Rove tells poor Martin Stanford on Sky News that he needs to be “schooled” on American politics. Harsh.
1.40 – Gingrich is shaking a lot of hands as he arrives on stage in Atlanta. His wife Callista is with him and the crowd shout “Newt! Newt! Newt!” Perfect timing as Karl Rove finishes up on Sky News and Gingrich prepares to speak to the masses… right after Callista introduces him: “What an exciting evening,” she says unemotionally, reading from notes.
2.18 – Right now Fox News has apparently got Santorum ahead in Ohio by two percentage points. Another poll quoted on Sky News says that Santorum is on 39 per cent and Romney is on 36 per cent. Which is significant although by no means certain.
Indeed, it’s worth point out at this stage that Santorum does not qualify for all the delegates on offer in the state as he did not file the paper work in certain electoral districts. I’ve thus far shied away from assigning delegates to candidates purely because of the uncertainty over the percentages that they are winning by or that they have attained in various states. All that will be clearer in the morning… or later this morning.
3.00 – As an aside, as I said earlier it’s difficult to get into the all-important delegate issue until we are certain of the percentage share of the votes that each candidate has won in each state.
Tonight, it’s winner takes all in some states like Georgia while in others it is proportional like Massachusetts. But if you are interested, here is the delegate count assembled by Politico based on results in so far:
3.07 – Sticking with delegates for a moment, here’s the Google/Associated Press delegate tracker which is not as resourced as the Politico one but nonetheless paints an interesting picture.
Clearly all candidates are far off the magic 1144 delegates number but it’s all about momentum which is why the result in Ohio is all important:
3.12 – That is Santorum’s third victory of the night, bringing him level in terms of state victories on this Super Tuesday with Romney. And still we wait for Ohio.
3.26 – And here’s Rick Santorum lashing the lips on his wife Karen at his rally in Ohio earlier:
3.29 – And finally, here’s Ron Paul speaking in North Dakota much earlier tonight:
3.34 – Okay, it’s all eyes on Ohio so here’s a county-by-county breakdown of how it’s looking in the ‘Rust Belt’ state as it is known, via CNN.
It is purple for Santorum and red for Romney but the caveat – and a big one at that – is that not all the votes are in in each county and some counties carry more weight than others. You can interact with the Ohio map here:
3.47 – There is talk of a recount in Ohio if it remains as close as it currently is. An automatic recount is triggered if there is 0.25 per cent or less between the candidates. Dear god.
4.03 – Meanwhile in Idaho, Romney is cruising on 77 per cent of the vote with 16 per cent of ballots counted there. They’ve not even started tallying the results of the caucus in Alaska. Though we know that Sarah Palin voted for Newt Gingrich there.
4.35 – The talk maybe about Santorum and Romney and the race that is too close to call in Ohio. But it is worth noting what a disappointing night it has been for Newt Gingrich.
The former House Speaker may have won his home state of Georgia but as Nate Silver points out, he is running in third place or worse in all the states reporting so far and aside from his delegate haul in Georgia looks unlikely to pick up much else.
4.42 – Incidentally, coming up next after this Super Tuesday is the less Super Saturday where Guam, Kansas, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands go to the polls. We won’t be liveblogging that, unfortunately.
4.57 – Right then we’re coming up to 5am here and we’re contemplating calling it quits for the night/morning. Mitt Romney appears to be on course to win in Ohio but it will not be convincing and there is a question about whether he will get over the line enough to avoid the triggering of an automatic recount.
5.14 – At this point, we’re going to wrap it up. It’s incredibly close in Ohio and it looks as if Romney is going to eek out a victory but it will be a hollow one.
This has been a very good night for Rick Santorum who has once again shown that the man he might like to paint as the ‘Massachusetts Moderate’ just cannot seal the deal.
Super Tuesday has been far from decisive in determining who the nominee will be to face Barack Obama in the autumn. Odds are that it will be Mitt Romney who will take the nomination but the fact that he cannot close the deal will concern Republicans and encourage Democrats ahead of the general election in November.
As for Newt Gingrich, victory in Georgia was not followed up with decent performances anywhere else while Ron Paul’s failure to win a state means he may now consider dropping out altogether.
In summary, a good night for Santorum and a difficult one for Romney.