BOSTON GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney won Utah and Massachusetts in early results in Super Tuesday voting, but the party's front-runner, Arizona Sen. John McCain, has already picked up several delegate-rich states.
Shortly after 8 p.m., McCain had been projected by CNN to win Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Arizona and Oklahoma. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee had an early victory in West Virginia's delegate convention, Arkansas and Alabama.
Several states voting today, including Georgia, Minnesota and Montana, were too close to predict a winner.
A fairly somber group of Romney supporters gathered at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center for what the campaign called a victory party. Romney's expected win in Utah brightened the mood.
"Given the fact that they are so familiar with his leadship style, so familiar with his ability to turn things around and so familiar with his ability to deliver success to every endeavor he has ever encountered, I think it is not a suprise that he would do well in Utah," Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said.
Romney, who led the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like the majority of Utahns. He still has a vacation home in Deer Valley and is considered a "favorite son" in the Beehive State.
Cheers also broke out when the former governor won Massachusetts. Bradley H. Jones Jr., a Massachusetts legislator, thanked the crowd for their support and reminded them it would be a long night.
Jones, the GOP leader in the Massachusetts House, said had Romney not won his home state, other campaigns could have said that sent the message that his own constituents didn't support him.
"But it's quite the contrary," Jones told the Deseret Morning News. He said the early win in Massachusetts "shows that those who know him best are supportive."
Romney was not expected to do well outside of the west except in Massachusetts, where he amassed a personal fortune estimated at $350 million as a venture capitalist and served a term as governor.
Whether his campaign continues beyond tonight, however, may hinge on his results in California. Romney supporters have said he needs a strong showing among that state's conservatives to stay in the race.
Romney has not commented yet on tonight's results, but his campaign manager, Beth Myers, issued a statement after Huckabee's West Virginia win that suggested McCain had "cut a Washington backroom deal" that hurt conservative Republicans.
"Unfortunately, this is what Sen. McCain's inside Washington ways look like: he cut a backroom deal with the tax-and-spend candidate he thought could best stop Gov. Romney's campaign of conservative change," Myers said.
She noted that Romney made a personal appeal to the West Virginia GOP this morning and led on the first ballot. "Sadly, Sen. McCain cut a Washington backroom deal in a way that once again underscores his legacy of working against Republicans who are interested in championing conservative policies and rebuilding the party," Myers said.
Romney had no events scheduled Wednesday, but planned to be in Washington, D.C., on Thursday for the Conservative Political Action Conference, a major gathering of conservatives.
Both President Bush and Vice President Cheney are scheduled to speak at the conference, as well as McCain and another GOP presidential candidate, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a one-time Libertarian candidate for president who has won no states.
Before tonight, Romney had scored wins in Wyoming, Michigan and Nevada but lost in higher-profile races in Iowa to Huckabee, and in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida to McCain.
Madden said tonight that Romney has no plans to drop out of the race."We were competative across the board," he said. "We still have a lot of states out there, it's going to bbe a long night, sowe'll have to wait and see. We are doing well with conservatives everywhere, so that's an important sign for our campaign."