US presidential candidates survive Super Tuesday
By Frank Fuhrig and Anne K Walters Mar 7, 2012, 17:23 GMT
Washington - The campaigns of all four Republican candidates survived Super Tuesday, despite a lead by frontrunner Mitt Romney, indicating that the race to clinch the party's nomination could rage on for weeks.
Romney took six out of 10 states whose votes were up for grabs Tuesday. The race now turns more toward the South and Midwest in the coming weeks, with Republican contests to take place Saturday in Kansas and March 13 in Alabama, Mississippi and Hawaii.
'After last night, I feel pretty darn good,' Romney told the television station CNBC on Wednesday. 'We had a very strong response across the country, everywhere from Alaska to Vermont.'
Romney notched a razor-thin win in Midwestern Ohio's presidential primary - the most closely watched test in the 10-state Super Tuesday nomination stakes.
The former Massachusetts governor had 38 per cent of the Ohio vote, compared to 37 per cent for leading rival Rick Santorum.
Romney, 64, won other primaries in Vermont, Virginia and his home state of Massachusetts, plus the Idaho and Alaska caucuses, on the biggest day yet in the race for the conservative party's nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in the November general elections.
Santorum, 53, whose more populist style and strong appeals to social conservatives helped him emerge in February as Romney's major rival, declared a moral victory in Ohio, where his campaign was heavily outspent. He scored first place finishes in the Oklahoma and Tennessee primaries and won the North Dakota caucus.
Former US House speaker Newt Gingrich, 68, won his delegate-rich home state of Georgia. But the political value of the victory was diluted by his advantage in the state he once represented. While he captured a few dozen delegates, the win seemed unlikely to revive Gingrich's campaign, which has stalled since his January victory in South Carolina.
Santorum, who gained viability after a few early February victories, parleyed that momentum into an early lead in Ohio. A former US senator from the neighbouring state of Pennsylvania, he held an edge as recently as February 29 of 34 per cent to 26 per cent over Romney in the RealClearPolitics.com average of Ohio polls.
A barrage of political advertising by Romney's well-funded campaign and his political allies may have helped close the gap leading up to Tuesday's vote.
'We went up against enormous odds,' Santorum said Tuesday night, 'not just here in the state of Ohio - where who knows how much we were outspent - but in every state.'
Ohio was seen as Super Tuesday's most important test: A key swing state in every close election, its demographic mix closely mirrors the nation as a whole, and no Republican has ever been elected president without winning there.
The Roman Catholic Santorum's brand of social conservatism has appealed to evangelical Christians in the South, where Romney's Mormon faith could prove a liability.
But it was his economic message that Santorum emphasized in Ohio, where he appealed to working class voters in the industrial state and made the argument that his brand of conservatism would play best in a contest against President Brack Obama, who is unopposed for the left-leaning Democratic Party's renomination.
'This campaign is about the towns that have been left behind and the families that made those towns the greatest towns across this country,' he told supporters in Steubenville, Ohio, as votes were counted.
Romney's rivals dispute the former governor's conservative sincerity, largely because of his moderate record as governor of the heavily Democratic state of Massachusetts.
'I stand ready to lead our party and stand ready to lead our nation to prosperity,' Romney told supporters in Boston Tuesday.
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