Romney pulls ahead, but Ohio still hangs in balance (Lead)

March 7th, 2012 - 1:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, March 7 (IANS) Mitt Romney pulled ahead to score his fourth victory in Super Tuesday primaries in ten states, but with the most hotly contested prize Ohio witnessing a close fight, the Republican race seemed far from over.

Former Massachusetts governor Romney will win four states and former senator Rick Santorum three, while former speaker Newt Gingrich grabbed a vital triumph in Georgia, CNN projected at midnight as Romney and Santorum remained locked in a duel in the crucial battleground state of Ohio.

The two frontrunners were running almost even in Ohio with more than 80 percent of unofficial returns counted in the contest to pick up the Republican nominee to challenge President Barack Obama in November.

But even if Santorum managed to win the Ohio vote, he wouldn’t get a majority of the delegates because his campaign failed to properly register them in some districts.

A CNN/ORC International poll released Monday indicated the state was a dead heat between Romney and Santorum, with each grabbing 32 percent of likely Republican primary voters. Gingrich was at 14 percent and Paul was at 11 percent.

Santorum’s victories in Tennessee and Oklahoma primaries, and in North Dakota’s caucuses showed his continuing strength among conservative voters, while Gingrich’s win in the state that sent him to Congress allows him to keep his campaign going.

Romney, meanwhile, easily won as expected in Virginia, Vermont, Idaho and Massachusetts, the state where he served as governor and considers home. In Virginia, two of his challengers-Santorum and Gingrich-failed to qualify for the ballot.

The Super Tuesday contests in 10 states put 419 delegates up for grabs. Based on the partial results, CNN estimated that Romney had accumulated 292 delegates to 121 for Santorum, 77 for Gingrich and 52 for Texas Representative Ron Paul. It takes 1,144 delegates to win the party nomination.

For Gingrich, who represented Georgia’s sixth congressional district for two decades, the victory provided a new boost after a string of defeats since his only other primary triumph in South Carolina.

Georgia had the most delegates up for grabs on Tuesday with 76, but Ohio, because of its status as a crucial battleground state in the general election, is considered the main prize.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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