SALT LAKE CITY — There was so little doubt Mitt Romney would win Utah's GOP presidential primary Tuesday that national news organizations called the race with less than 2 percent of the state's precincts reporting.
Romney capped what had been an often contentious battle to become the Republican Party's presumptive nominee with an easy victory in Utah, a state that has staunchly supported the White House aspirations of the former leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
With more than 87 percent of precincts reporting, Romney had nearly 93 percent of the vote. His nearest competition came from libertarian-leaning Texas Rep. Ron Paul, with more than 4.6 percent. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who in the end put up a tough fight against Romney for the nomination, had less than 2 percent of the vote.
Four years ago, Romney won Utah's GOP primary on Super Tuesday with a whopping 90 percent of the vote. The Republican Party's eventual nominee in 2008, Arizona Sen. John McCain, managed just over 5 percent of the vote and Paul, 3 percent.
Had Romney not hit the 90 percent mark this election, it might have sparked another round of debate over whether Romney has really won over Republicans nationwide, said Southern Methodist University political science professor Matthew Wilson.
"It would be a way for some people to signal lingering discontent with his candidacy. But I think most mainstream Republicans have made their peace with Romney," Wilson said. "They've decided, 'This is our horse.' "
In an email to his Utah supporters, Romney said the nation's final GOP primary marks the end of a long road but it's also only a beginning. "The road to November 6th will be longer and harder but it will be worth it," he said.
With only four months left before the general election, Romney said, "There will be good days and bad days; always long hours and never enough time" but victory will mean "we will stand united — not only having won an election, but also having saved a future."
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