US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney eked out a narrow win in Ohio and was victorious in four other Super Tuesday states.
As expected, Mitt Romney cruised to victory in his home state of Massachusetts, as well as Idaho, Vermont and Virginia.
Mitt Romney also won in Alaska, which Ron Paul was pinning his hopes on for his only win of the nomination campaign.
Rick Santorum won a hat-trick of contests, while Newt Gingrich took his home state of Georgia.
Mitt Romney now leads the field with 415 delegates committed to backing him at the national Republican convention in August. A candidate needs 1,144 delegates to win the party’s nomination and go on to challenge Barack Obama in November’s election.
But Super Tuesday did not deliver a sufficiently convincing victory to end the race and convince Mitt Romney’s rivals to pull out.
After Tuesday’s 10-state voting marathon, Mitt Romney defended his position as the front-runner.
“I’m going to get this nomination,” Mitt Romney told supporters in Boston.
Mitt Romney easily won Massachusetts, where he was governor, as well as liberal-leaning Vermont and Idaho, where his fellow Mormons make up a chunk of the electorate.
He also won resoundingly in Virginia, where Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich failed to qualify for the ballot.
Rick Santorum, a former US senator from Pennsylvania, said his victories in Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota proved he was the bona fide conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.
“This was a big night tonight,” Rick Santorum told supporters in Steubenville, Ohio. “We have won in the West, the Midwest and the South, and we’re ready to win across this country.”
After a cliffhanger count, Mitt Romney narrowly edged out Rick Santorum in Ohio, the night’s most coveted prize.
Ohio was important because no Republican nominee has taken the White House without winning the Midwestern bellwether state in the general election.
Of the 66 delegates on offer, Mitt Romney took home 35 compared to Rick Santorum’s 21, the Associated Press reports.
Rick Santorum began the race in Ohio with a big lead in the opinion polls, but Mitt Romney’s well-funded political machine overcame him in part through a heavy campaign of attack adverts.
Rick Santorum has attracted the support of religious conservatives with his opposition to gay marriage and abortion.
However, his outspoken remarks on birth control and the role of religion may have turned off moderate-leaning voters.
Exit polls showed Ohio voters thought Mitt Romney stood the best chance of beating Barack Obama; however, Rick Santorum appealed more to blue-collar voters.
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, did not achieve the sweep of Southern states he hoped for.
But he vowed to stay in the race after his Georgia win.
“There are lots of bunny rabbits to run through, I am the tortoise. I just take one step at a time,” Newt Gingrich said.
With 96% of votes counted in Alaska, Mitt Romney was winning with 33% of the vote, ahead of Rick Santorum with 29%. Texas Congressman Ron Paul – who had been hoping to make the state his only win of the campaign – was trailing with 22% while Newt Gingrich held 14%.
Of the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination, 419 were up for grabs on Tuesday.
Overall, Mitt Romney won at least 212 of Super Tuesday’s delegates, taking his total to 415, while Rick Santorum added 84, taking his count to 176, AP reports.
The race is not over yet as the next crop of primaries and caucuses will not do Mitt Romney any favors.
Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Hawaii hold their contests over the next 10 days.
Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich will be hoping to halt Mitt Romney’s momentum and keep their challenges alive.
The drawn-out nomination fight, which has been waged in large part through negative television adverts, may have taken its toll on the Republican Party.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll showed only 35% of Americans looked upon Mitt Romney favorably, compared to 32% for Ron Paul, 23% for Newt Gingrich, and 32% for Rick Santorum.