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Super Tuesday: What we learned

By Philip Elliott

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 7 2012 1:35 a.m. MST

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, greets supporters as they arrive at their Super Tuesday primary watch party in Boston, Tuesday, March 6, 2012.

Gerald Herbert, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Republicans in 10 states weighed in on the GOP presidential nomination race in its busiest day yet. Mitt Romney won six states, Rick Santorum clinched three and Newt Gingrich prevailed in one. And along the way, clues were gleaned from the results about the path ahead. A look at what we learned:

REPUBLICANS AREN'T HOT ON ANYONE

It's almost like a bad version of Goldilocks. Nobody is just right.

Listen to voters — in person and in exit polls — and it's pretty clear Republicans aren't all that hot on any of the candidates.

Only in three states did most people say they strongly supported the contender they backed, nowhere reaching 6 in 10. In the four other states where polling was conducted Tuesday, less than half expressed that degree of support for their candidate.

Even so, Republicans will eventually support the nominee. They always do. Just look at how the grumbling over John McCain faded four years ago when voters were given the choice of begrudgingly supporting the Arizona senator — seen as a moderate — or backing Barack Obama.

GINGRICH ISN'T DEAD

But that doesn't mean he can fully come back a third time.

Until Tuesday, the former House speaker hadn't won since South Carolina on Jan. 21. He had declared Georgia a must-win state and essentially camped out there for the past week. Gingrich, who represented Georgia for years in the U.S. House, made the state his firewall in hopes of winning a rationale to continue his bid.

It worked. At least for the moment.

"The media said, 'Oh, I guess this is over, finally,'" Gingrich told supporters. "But you all said no."

Now the question is whether his backers open their wallets to prove he can compete.

Underscoring the urgency, ally Herman Cain was soliciting donations even before Gingrich had gone to bed.

ORGANIZATION MATTERS

Unless it doesn't.

On one hand, Santorum should have been embarrassed in Ohio. His shoestring, scattershot campaign didn't collect enough signatures to appear on the ballot in the Steubenville area, a rural, conservative part of the state where his message on social issues — and his kinship with a region that neighbors his home state of Pennsylvania — should have given him an advantage. And that meant he ceded delegates from that region.

Yet, Santorum still managed to make it a close race with Romney, and he won at least some delegates. And Romney just eked out a win, not the decisive victory he had sought. The results wouldn't force Santorum from the campaign.

If anything, Santorum's almost-win — with scant organization — foreshadows problems for Romney in contests ahead.

RICH PEOPLE LIKE ROMNEY

Got money? Chances are, you voted for Romney.

In the seven states that had exit polls, Romney — a millionaire many times over who has struggled to connect with working-class voters — was the preferred candidate of the wealthiest voters. In Ohio and Tennessee, Romney won about 4 in 10 voters who reported a household income of more than $200,000. In Georgia, about a third of voters with a family income greater than $100,000 backed Romney. In his home state of Massachusetts, about three-quarters of voters making more than $200,000 supported him.

Santorum, in turn, did well among less affluent voters. In Ohio and Tennessee, he claimed about 4 in 10 voters reporting an income between $50,000 and $99,000. In Oklahoma, he won about 4 in 10 voters who made less than $50,000.

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