Romney beat Santorum by just one percentage point in Ohio, a state that is vital to Republican hopes in November’s general election. Romney had trailed badly there in recent weeks, but rebounded as a result of heavy TV advertising and repeated visits to the state. He also won four states where he faced little opposition: Massachusetts, Virginia, Vermont and Idaho. In the Alaska caucuses, he won with 32.6 percent of the vote, compared to 29 percent for Santorum, 24 percent for Paul and 14.2 percent for Gingrich.
Each victory helped Romney add to his lead in delegates, the tally that will ultimately determine the GOP’s nominee. But the former Massachusetts governor, who has struggled to capture the passion of Republican voters, acknowledged that it could be a struggle for him to clinch the nomination before the Republicans’ nominating convention.
“We’ve got the time and the resources and a plan to get all the delegates and we think that’ll get done before the convention,” Romney said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box “ on Wednesday. “But one thing I can tell you for sure: There’s not going to be a brokered convention, where some new person comes in and becomes the nominee. It’s going to be one of the four people that are still running.”
In his victory speech Tuesday night, Romney focused on President Obama, paying little heed to his GOP rivals. “We’re counting up the delegates, and that looks good,” Romney said. “And we’re counting down the days until November, and that looks even better.”
But Santorum scored wins in Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota--victories which, along with his close loss in Ohio, underscored his ability to draw conservative and blue-collar voters with a bargain-basement campaign.
“The Republican Party has to nominate somebody who can talk about the broad vision of what America is,” Santorum told supporters in the small city of Steubenville, Ohio. To beat Obama, he said, “we need a fighter. We need a fighter, and someone who learned what America was about by growing up in communities just like this.”
In all, 10 states held primaries or caucuses on Tuesday, making it the most important day of the 2012 campaign so far.
Nationwide, exit polls revealed two broad trends about Republican voters. The first was that many remain unenthused about the slate of candidates: In Ohio and Tennessee, more than four in 10 said they had cast their ballots “with reservations.”
The second was that GOP voters remain deeply split about what should be the top priority in this race: ideology or electability. In Tennessee, for instance, nearly four in 10 voters said that the ability to beat Obama is the most important candidate attribute. Romney wins that group.