ANALYSIS: Republican nomination contest: To be continued ...
By Anne K Walters Mar 7, 2012, 14:42 GMT
Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during his Super Tuesday primary election night event at the Westin Copley Place in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 06 March 2012. T EPA/CJ GUNTHER
Washington - Everybody got what he needed, but nobody got what he wanted.
Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney may not have scored the knock-out punch he hoped for in Ohio, but with Super Tuesday wins in that Midwestern bellweather and five other states, the former Massachusetts governor continued his grinding march toward the conservative party's nomination.
Romney eked out the narrowest of margins in Ohio, where he finished just 1 percentage point ahead of top rival Rick Santorum. The former Pennsylvania senator, known for his socially conservative views, still cast the Ohio result as a victory given his campaign's considerable monetary and organizing deficit.
Ohio was the most important prize on so-called Super Tuesday, the day with the most states and delegates at stake of the entire state-by-state nomination race, which started in January and ends in June.
Ohio will be key in the November presidential elections - no Republican has ever been elected president without winning there - and Ohio voters are a demographic mix that closely mirrors the nation at large.
A loss in the decisive swing state could have undermined Romney's credibility to compete with Obama in the general election both in Ohio and nationwide.
But both Romney and Santorum could claim vindication from Ohio - with Romney coming from behind after Santorum led opinion surveys in the state just a week earlier, and Santorum keeping pace with the front-runner despite massive financial and organizational disadvantages.
Santorum scored additional wins in North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee, leaving him as Romney's closest rival and solidifying his claims to best represent the party's conservative wing.
'We have won in the West, the Midwest and the South, and we're ready to win across this country,' he declared late Tuesday.
Former speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich snagged a victory in his home state of Georgia, giving him a cache of delegates and a reason to hang in the race, with hopes that Santorum or Romney might still stumble.
Gingrich, who represented the state in Congress during the 1980s and '90s, had said that he needed to win Georgia. With no wins since the South Carolina primary in January, a loss could have proved the death of his campaign. He placed third or fourth in every other state Tuesday.
'In the morning we are going on to Alabama, we are going on to Mississippi, we are going on to Kansas, and that's just this week,' he told supporters in Atlanta.
Ron Paul, a Texas congressman who is out of the mainstream of the candidates with his calls for radically smaller government and a withdrawal from foreign military entanglements, failed to notch up any wins in the Super Tuesday contests, but came in second in caucuses in North Dakota and Idaho. He had a strong third place in the Alaska caucuses.
His strategy has been to gather delegates to the national nominating convention in August, particularly in caucus states, and to gain some sway over the party's eventual official platform.
Romney maintains a wide lead in the delegate count. The contests do not directly elect a nominee but allocate delegates to the candidates for the August convention. More than 400 were at stake Tuesday; 1,144 delegates are needed to win the nomination.
Romney's wins in Vermont, Virginia, Ohio, Massachusetts, Idaho and Alaska add to his delegate total, which is nearly twice as many as Santorum.
But with so many delegates left to be awarded and most states awarding their results proportionally, the contest could still drag on for weeks.
While Gingrich cast himself in a speech to supporters as the slow-but-steady 'tortoise' who ultimately wins the race, it was Romney who was slowly building a lead.
Romney acknowledged as much in a victory speech to supporters late Tuesday, but noted his campaign was busy counting and was encouraged by the results - both in the number of delegates and in the days until the presidential election.
'Tomorrow we wake up and start again, and we go step-by-step, day-by-day, heart-to-heart,' he said. 'There will be good days and bad days, ... but on November 6 we're going to stand united, not only having won an election but secured a future.'
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