Former Gov. Mitt Romney narrowly defeated former Sen. Rick Santorum on Tuesday in the battleground state of Ohio, according to the Associated Press.
Underscoring the continuing contentious and divided nature of national Republicans, the remaining GOP presidential candidates split the Super Tuesday contests amongst themselves, once again denying Romney the decisive wins he would need to officially clinch the 2012 nomination.
CNN exit polls found that 96 percent of the voters were white. Santorum received the most votes from those aged 17 to 49, while Romney did best among those 50 and older. Santorum also did better among more conservative voters and those without a college education.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Santorum and Romney on Tuesday fought for more than 400 delegates in Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.
Romney was projected to win Virginia, where only himself and Paul appeared on the ballot. Gingrich and Santorum both failed to submit the 10,000 verifiable signatures needed to qualify. Since Romney won more than 50 percent of the vote, he picked up all of the state’s 34 delegates.
Romney was also projected to win in Vermont, his home state Massachusetts, and Idaho.
“To the millions of Americans who look around and can only see jobs they can’t get and bills they can’t pay, I have a message,” said Romney, amid deafening chants of “USA, USA” and “We need Mitt.”
“You have not failed. You have a president that has failed you, and that’s going to change… This president’s run out of ideas. He’s run out of excuses, and in 2012, we’re going to get him out of the White House.”
He added: “This campaign is not about a name on the ballot. It’s about saving the soul of America.”
Santorum will win Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota, according to exit polls.
“Tonight it’s clear: we’ve won races all over this country against the odds. When they thought, ‘oh OK, he’s finally finished,’ we keep coming back,” Santorum told hundreds in the packed gymnasium at Steubenville High School in blue collar eastern Ohio.
Although Romney also quickly notched up several wins out of the 10 Super Tuesday states, the Santorum campaign clearly feels its passion can overcome millionaire businessman Romney’s big spending advantage.
Campaign strategist John Brabender was already talking up the future primaries such as Kansas and Mississippi. “Believe me, there is no resting in this campaign,” he told reporters.
Exit polls projected former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to win his home state of Georgia, with 45 percent of the vote. Romney was projected to pick up 26 percent, followed by Santorum with 20 percent and Paul with 8 percent. Gingrich picked up at least 23 of Georgia’s 76 delegates.
Presidential candidates need to obtain 1,144 delegates to win the Republican nomination.
With reporting by Raw Story
[Ed note: This article was edited after publication]
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