MITT ROMNEY has extended his lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination after the ‘Super Tuesday’ votes, but still has much work to do to seal the nomination after his main rival Rick Santorum also polled strongly.
Former Massachusetts governor Romney won his home state as well as Idaho, Vermont and Virginia – and also took the key battleground state of Ohio, a state seen as a key bellweather for a candidate’s prospects.
His victory in Ohio was a late one, however, with former Pennsylvania senator Santorum having outpolled Romney in the state’s more rural areas. In the end, Romney won the state by a mere 1 per cent.
Though Santorum’s strength in rural areas mean he will take a fair chunk of the state’s 63 pledged delegates to the Republican convention, and the manner in which he pushed Romney suggests that he still has a chance to win the nomination himself.
- AS IT HAPPENED: Hugh O’Connell’s Super Tuesday liveblog >
Santorum took victory in Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota, while former House speaker Newt Gingrich sailed home in his home state of Georgia. Texan congressman Ron Paul polled well nationwide, but did not top the poll in any state, and will take only a handful of delegates.
In a tenth state, Alaska, counting began relatively late, but with 79 per cent of districts reporting, Romney had taken 33 per cent of the vote ahead of Santorum’s 30.
Romney assured supporters in Massachusetts, where he spent the evening, that he was “counting down the days until November – we’re going to take your vote, and our victory, all the way to the White House,” he said.
Romney also attacked Barack Obama’s record, saying unemployment had remained high under his watch, while the budget deficit had doubled despite Obama’s pledge to halve it.
“8 per cent unemployment is not the best America can do; it’s just the best this administration can do. When I am President, the American economy will not be lagging behind; it will be leading the world,” he said.
Santorum, who himself spent the day in Ohio, told voters there that he was “going to get at least a couple of gold medals, and a whole passel full of silver medals”.
CNN projections after the results in the ten states were tallied put Romney on 386 delegates, compared to 158 for Santorum, 94 for Gingrich and 60 for Paul.
The successful candidate will need to secure 1,144 delegates to seal the nomination and challenge Barack Obama in November. There are another 376 delegates up for grabs in primaries and caucuses to be held later this month.
As it happened: Hugh O’Connell’s Super Tuesday liveblog >