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Santorum, Romney duel in Ohio, split other states

By David Espo

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 6 2012 9:14 p.m. MST

Ada County Republicans caucus at Taco Bell Arena on the campus of Boise State University in Boise, Idaho, on Tuesday, March 6, 2012. Idaho, even with its rich Republican tradition and 32 delegates, has traditionally been an afterthought to candidates vying for the presidential nomination. But GOP officials changed the state's schedule last year, opting instead to swap out a May primary for a caucus on March 6, putting Idaho in the same group as nine other states with Super Tuesday balloting. (AP Photo/The Idaho Statesman, Joe Jaszewski) MANDATORY CREDIT

Joe Jaszewski, ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney split six states and dueled in an almost impossibly close race in Ohio on a Super Tuesday that stretched from one end of the country to the other in the most turbulent Republican presidential race in a generation.

Santorum broke through in primaries in Oklahoma and Tennessee and in the North Dakota caucuses, raising fresh doubts about Romney's ability to corral the votes of conservatives in some of the most Republican states in the country.

Romney had a home-state win in Massachusetts to go with victories in Vermont and Virginia, where neither Santorum nor Newt Gingrich qualified for the ballot.

On the busiest night of the campaign season, Ohio was the marquee matchup, a second industrial state showdown in as many weeks between Romney and Santorum. It drew the most campaigning and television advertisements of all 10 Super Tuesday contests and for good reason— no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying the state in the fall.

With votes tallied in 85 percent of the state's precincts, Santorum led by fewer than 2,000 votes out of more than 1 million cast.

Gingrich had a victory in his column - his first win in more than six weeks. The former House speaker triumphed at home in Georgia, but a barrage of attack ads by a Super PAC supporting Romney helped hold him below 50 percent and forced him to share the delegates.

Paul pinned his hopes on Idaho and Alaska as he scratched for his first victory of the campaign season.

Whatever the outcome in Ohio, Romney was on track to pad his lead in the hunt for delegates to the Republican National Convention. Not surprisingly, given his mixed night, he focused on the delegate chase.

"This is a process of gathering enough delegates to become the nominee, and I think we're on track to have that happen," he told reporters as he arrived home in Massachusetts to vote in the primary.

Later, he told supporters, "I'm going to get this nomination."

Yet Santorum's multiple victories, coupled with Gingrich's win, provided fresh evidence that Romney's conservative rivals retain the ability to outpoll him in certain parts of the country despite his huge organizational and financial advantages.

Santorum waited until Oklahoma and Tennessee fell into his column before speaking to cheering supporters in Ohio. "This was a big night tonight," he said. "We have won in the West, the Midwest and the South, and we're ready to win across this country."

In all, there were primaries in Virginia, Vermont, Ohio, Massachusetts, Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Caucuses in North Dakota, Idaho and Alaska rounded out the calendar.

Some 419 delegates were at stake in the 10 states.

Romney picked up at least 129 delegates during the evening, Santorum 47, Gingrich 42 and Paul at least 10.

That gave the former Massachusetts governor 332, more than all his rivals combined, a total that included endorsements from members of the Republican National Committee who automatically attend the convention and can support any candidate they choose. Santorum had 139 delegates, Gingrich 75 and Paul 35. It takes 1,144 delegates to win the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., this summer.

Ohio Republicans were a party divided, based not only on the popular vote but also interviews with voters as they left their polling places.

Santorum outpolled Romney among Ohioans with incomes under $100,000, while Romney won among those with six-figure incomes and up. Romney won among working women; Santorum among women who do not.

Santorum won among self-described conservatives, while Romney outpointed his rival among those who said they are moderate or liberal.

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