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Posted by on Mar 7, 2012 in Politics | 1 comment

BREAKING NEWS: Romney Finally Takes Ohio But Narrowly So Santorum Remains Politically Alive

The most dramatic story of Super Tuesday is finally over: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has won the big prize, Ohio — but he didn’t exactly take Ohio by storm which means he didn’t score a total knock out, even though he still seems poised to eventually win the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination:

Mitt Romney scored a narrow victory over Rick Santorum in the Ohio presidential primary following a hard-fought campaign that had been perceived as a turning point in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination. NBC projected he was the apparent winner in that state.

Both Romney and Santorum won several Super Tuesday caucuses and primaries, but none more prized than Romney’s victory in Ohio. The former Massachusetts governor was able to ride a wave of momentum out of Michigan, where he also closely battled Santorum, to erase the former Pennsylvania senator’s lead in Ohio over the past week.

The trajectory of the Republican campaign hinged in large part on Ohio, and now Romney may claim the imprimatur associated with winning a state that’s considered an essential step toward victory in the general election.

But a margin of just a few thousand votes separated Romney and Santorum, representing a kind of moral victory for Santorum given the way the Romney campaign and a supportive super PAC heavily outspent him in Ohio.

Romney and Santorum notched additional victories across the country in the caucuses and primaries they had been expected to win. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won the primary in Georgia, the state from which he had served as a representative in Congress, but trailed in the remainder of states playing host to nominating contests on Tuesday.

But neither Santorum nor Gingrich, buoyed by their own wins, seemed any closer by the end of the night to ending their campaigns, reflecting the lingering doubts by Romney among conservatives, which were underscored in exit polling.

The bottom line: Romney will can’t close the deal with the GOP’s conservative base. And if he gets the nomination he could be the most unloved Republican candidate in years. CNN:

Mitt Romney won five Super Tuesday states including the big prize of Ohio, while Rick Santorum took three states and Newt Gingrich grabbed a vital triumph in Georgia, CNN projected.

The showing made it a good night for Romney, padding his front-running delegate total, but lacked the convincing showing he needed to demonstrate his ability to generate support among diehard conservatives.

In Ohio, Romney took a late lead of more than 12,000 votes over Santorum with 96% of unofficial results counted, and it was clear Santorum would be unable to overcome the difference.

Even if Santorum had 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.

Don’t look for Santorum to throw in the towel after his victories last night:

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

The Santorum victories in conservative bastions of Tennessee and Oklahoma also hurt Gingrich’s Southern strategy after the former House speaker’s triumphs in South Carolina and now Georgia.

Romney, meanwhile, easily won as expected in Virginia, Vermont, Idaho and Massachusetts, the state where he served as governor and considers home, as well as Ohio. 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 359 delegates to 138 for Santorum, 93 for Gingrich and 60 for Texas Rep. Ron Paul. It takes 1,144 delegates to win the Republican 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.

Look for this battle to go through the end of May. Or longer. The Hill:

GOP strategists said that Romney may be in good shape in the delegate count but the results in Ohio indicate the race will drag on — and that the only candidate celebrating Tuesday night is Obama.

“Super Tuesday was a super mess. Romney’s organization can produce results and delegates, but they are having a tough time overcoming Santorum’s passionate supporters,” said GOP strategist Tyler Harber. “Super Tuesday demonstrated that the race for the Republican nomination is far from being over, and that helps keep the heat off Obama for the time being.”

Romney had other wins: Virginia, Vermont, Idaho and his home state of Massachusetts. Gingrich, as expected, won his home state of Georgia.

But the former Massachusetts governor’s loss in Tennessee means Romney hasn’t won a state yet in the deep South. He lost South Carolina in January and, while he won Florida’s primary, that state is not typically counted among the Southern bloc.

Romney has struggled with Tea Party supporters, very conservative voters and evangelical Christians — three groups that hold large sway over GOP primaries in many Southern states.

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said that Romney is the only candidate who can win the delegates necessary to secure the nomination, but that he needs to show he can win in the South and grow his base. But, O’Connell noted, the Super Tuesday results had neither shown that nor helped Romney move toward a quick end to the nomination contest.

“The only way Team Obama would be happier tonight is if Romney lost Ohio,” he said.

No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio, and it was considered the biggest prize of the 10 contests Tuesday. Romney and Santorum spent much time and money there in the last week.

Most likely: Romney gets the nomination. His biggest goal: he can unite his part due to hatred of Barack Obama but that may not be enough to generate feverish enthusiasm — which will be needed since Republicans are lagging now with independent voters, women voters and Latinos. The base might not be enough to win and an unenthusiastic base will make it even harder.

The copyrighted cartoon by Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle, is licensed to run on TMV. Unathorized reproduction prohibited.