Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won a narrow victory Tuesday in Ohio’s Republican presidential primary, capturing the top prize in the so-called Super Tuesday contests involving 10 states.
Romney narrowly defeated former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum in Ohio, the single biggest showdown of the 10 Super Tuesday contests.
Romney also won victories in his home state of Massachusetts, plus Virginia, Vermont and Idaho.
In doing so, Romney expanded his overall lead in the delegate count over Santorum and the other two remaining contenders, former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
Exit polls showed Romney did best among more moderate Republican voters looking for a strong candidate to take on President Barack Obama in November.
Romney spoke to supporters at his campaign headquarters in Massachusetts.
“To the millions of Americans who look around and can only see jobs they can not get and bills that they can not pay, I have a message. You have not failed. You have a president who has failed you and that is going to change,” he said.
Despite narrowly losing in Ohio, Santorum also had his share of victories on Tuesday including Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Santorum’s strong showings in those states signals the Republican race is likely to go on for several more weeks at least.
Santorum continues to draw support from more conservative voters, especially those concerned with social issues and reducing the power of the federal government.
Santorum spoke to supporters in Ohio.
“We are not a great country because we have a great and powerful government. We are a great country because we believe that rights don’t come from the government but, as in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence says, our rights come to us from our creator,” he said.
Newt Gingrich had a minor comeback of sorts Tuesday with a victory in his former home state of Georgia. But Gingrich was unable to extend his success to other southern states like Tennessee and Oklahoma, both won by Santorum.
Gingrich told supporters in Georgia he will continue in the race and will focus on next week’s primaries in Alabama and Mississippi.
“We survived the national elites effort to kill us in the summer because of you, because of people who said we are not going to allow the elite to decide who we are allowed to nominate,” he said.
Ron Paul finished well back in most of the Super Tuesday states but remains in the Republican race even though he has little to show for it in terms of victories.
Paul spoke to supporters in North Dakota.
“It has been said that no army can stop an idea whose time has come and the idea of returning this country to the principles of liberty, that idea is alive and well and growing by leaps and bounds,” he said.
Ten states voted Tuesday with more than 400 Republican delegates at stake, the single biggest one-day haul on a Republican primary calendar that began in January and will last into June.
It takes 1,144 delegates to secure the Republican nomination and the party will formally nominate a candidate at the national nominating convention in Tampa, Florida, in late August.
Related report by Suzanne Presto: