Rom­ney takes early Su­per lead

Ri­vals win Ga., Tenn., Okla., N.D.

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN AND STEPHEN DINAN

STEUBENVILLE, OHIO | Mitt Rom­ney won four con­tests, Newt Gin­grich won Ge­or­gia and Rick San­to­rum claimed two pri­maries and a cau­cus — but over­all brag­ging rights for Su­per Tues­day’s slate of pri­maries and cau­cuses was still to be de­cided in Ohio.

Mr. Rom­ney and Mr. San­to­rum were slug­ging it out there in a race that was too close to call late Tues­day, but which was the key to front-run­ner sta­tus in the Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion and the right to face Pres­i­dent Obama in Novem­ber.

Over­all, Mr. Rom­ney con­tin­ued to win around the coun­try’s edges with pri­mary wins in Virginia, Ver­mont and Mas­sachusetts. He also was pro­jected

to win the Idaho cau­cuses and add to his lead in del­e­gates to the nom­i­nat­ing con­ven­tion.

But the for­mer Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor has strug­gled to win in the heart­land, where Mr. San­to­rum has dom­i­nated over the last month and won again Tues­day in Ten­nessee, Ok­la­homa and North Dakota.

“Lots of states. We’re go­ing to win a few, we’re go­ing to lose a few. But as it looks right now, we’re go­ing to get at least a cou­ple gold medals and a whole pas­sel of sil­ver medals,” Mr. San­to­rum, a for­mer se­na­tor from Penn­syl­va­nia, said at a party in a high school gym in Steubenville, as he sur­veyed re­sults that so­lid­i­fied his po­si­tion as the chief chal­lenger to Mr. Rom­ney.

With 419 del­e­gates at stake in 10 states, Tues­day was the sin­gle-largest day on the pri­mary cal­en­dar. In ad­di­tion to the eight states that were de­cided by late Tues­day night, as well as Ohio, vot­ers were cau­cus­ing in Alaska.

Two months into the race, with nearly half of the states hav­ing voted, pre­lim­i­nary counts show Mr. Rom­ney has more del­e­gates than the rest of the field com­bined.

But he’s still failed in the ex­pec­ta­tion game, where pun­dits said he should have wrapped up the nom­i­na­tion long ago against what they con­sider a weak set of op­po­nents.

On Tues­day, Mr. Rom­ney ac­knowl­edged what has turned into one of the most drawn-out Re­pub­li­can cam­paigns in mod­ern his­tory.

“Tonight, we’ve taken one more step to­wards restor­ing the prom­ise of to­mor­row. To­mor­row, we wake up, and we start again,” he said at his post­elec­tion party in Bos­ton.

“There will be good days. there will be bad days, al­ways long hours and never enough time to get ev­ery­thing done. But on Nov. 6, we will stand united, not only hav­ing won an elec­tion, but hav­ing saved a fu­ture,” Mr. Rom­ney said.

The for­mer Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor has now won in Florida, the North­east, Michi­gan and out West. Mean­while, Mr. Gin­grich, a for­mer House speaker, has won two South­ern coastal states. But with the ex­cep­tion of Ne­vada, Mr. San­to­rum has won ev­ery race in a state that doesn’t touch a U.S. in­ter­na­tional bor­der or the sea.

The can­di­dates are seek­ing their party’s nod to square off against Mr. Obama in Novem­ber, but the pres­i­dent and his Demo­cratic al­lies have fo­cused most of their at­tacks on Mr. Rom­ney, whom they view as the most for­mi­da­ble ri­val.

Asked at a news con­fer­ence Tues­day what mes­sage he had for Mr. Rom­ney on Su­per Tues­day, the pres­i­dent said sim­ply: “Good luck tonight.”

Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Re­pub­li­can, who had yet to win a con­test, spent his time in the run-up to Tues­day con­cen­trat­ing on cau­cuses in Idaho, North Dakota and Alaska, where his cam­paign said thou­sands of peo­ple turned out to see him at events over the past week.

“The mo­men­tum is build­ing,” Mr. Paul said at his post­elec­tion party in Fargo, N.D.

Mr. Gin­grich had fo­cused his ef­forts on Ten­nessee and Ge­or­gia, say­ing he needed to win the state he rep­re­sented for years in Congress if his cam­paign was to re­main vi­able.

Even though he placed third in Ten­nessee, Mr. Gin­grich said at a party in At­lanta on Tues­day that his vic­tory in Ge­or­gia keeps him alive, and he deemed him­self “the tor­toise” in the race.

“I hope the an­a­lysts in Washington and New York who spent June and July ex­plain­ing our cam­paign was dead will watch this tonight and learn a lit­tle bit from this crowd,” Mr. Gin­grich said.

Mr. Rom­ney and Mr. San­to­rum fought chiefly over Ohio, where they hit on sim­i­lar themes of smaller gov­ern­ment, lower taxes and a stronger mil­i­tary — and call­ing for the repeal of Mr. Obama’s health care law, ap­proval of the Key­stone XL pipe­line project and a tougher stance on Iran.

They also worked to draw dis­tinc­tions with each other.

Mr. Rom­ney painted Mr. San­to­rum as a Washington in­sider, while he billed him­self as a turn­around artist, telling au­di­ences that his 25 years in busi­ness, his work to re­vive the 2002 Win­ter Olympics and his ex­pe­ri­ence as gov­er­nor of Mas­sachusetts equipped him with the knowl­edge needed to ad­dress the na­tion’s eco­nomic and un­em­ploy­ment woes.

Mr. San­to­rum ar­gued that Mr. Rom­ney’s sup­port of univer­sal health care in Mas­sachusetts would hurt the party’s chances of de­feat­ing Mr. Obama in Novem­ber, and he ac­cused the for­mer gov­er­nor of try­ing to cover up past sup­port for the same sort of fed­eral health care man­date that he now rails against on the cam­paign trail.

The for­mer se­na­tor also played up his blue-col­lar, western Penn­syl­va­nia roots, telling au­di­ences that he un­der­stands them, while ar­gu­ing that the party must work to breathe new life into the small towns that em­body the fam­ily val­ues that so­cial con­ser­va­tives hold dear.

The out­comes of the 10 con­tests on Su­per Tues­day were not ex­pected to be as de­ci­sive as the big day in 2008, when Sen. John Mccain of Ari­zona es­sen­tially sewed up the nom­i­na­tion.

But Tues­day was ex­pected to bring some clar­ity to the grind-it-out race, and to go a long way to­ward an­swer­ing whether Mr. Rom­ney could break away from the rest of the Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial pack and per­suade vot­ers that he gives the party the best chance of de­feat­ing Mr. Obama in the Novem­ber elec­tion.

Mr. Rom­ney had been rid­ing a win­ning streak, with re­cent wins in Maine, Ari­zona, Michi­gan, Wy­oming and Washington state.

He also re­ceived a boost over the week­end when House Ma­jor­ity Leader Eric Can­tor of Virginia an­nounced his back­ing.

But his high-pro­file en­dorse­ments have not proved to be de­ci­sive — and Mr. San­to­rum, Mr. Gin­grich and Mr. Paul all have cam­paigned against the “elites” in Washington that they say are drag­ging the party and the coun­try in the wrong di­rec­tion.

For Mr. San­to­rum, Tues­day’s con­tests pro­vided him with an­other op­por­tu­nity to re­gain some of the mo­men­tum he ap­peared to have at the be­gin­ning of Fe­bru­ary, when he won cau­cuses in Colorado and Min­nesota and a non­bind­ing pri­mary in Mis­souri.

But his wins in the heart­land masked the prob­lems he has had run­ning a na­tional cam­paign.

He and Mr. Gin­grich failed to qual­ify for the Virginia bal­lot, and Mr. San­to­rum’s ap­pear­ance in Steubenville was an in­ter­est­ing choice, given that it is lo­cated in one of the con­gres­sional dis­tricts where Mr. San­to­rum’s cam­paign in­fra­struc­ture failed him. He did not file the num­ber of sig­na­tures Ohio party rules re­quire to re­ceive del­e­gates to the na­tional con­ven­tion, based on the pri­mary’s re­sults.

In other words, even if he won the dis­trict, he would not have ben­e­fited in the del­e­gate count that de­ter­mines the nom­i­nee.

John Braben­der, Mr. San­to­rum’s long­time po­lit­i­cal ad­viser, said they saw good signs from the vote.

“We won Ten­nessee go­ing away; I think we won ev­ery county. We won Ok­la­homa go­ing away. We just won North Dakota, and I think the Rom­ney peo­ple came in third,” he told re­porters. “All I know is that af­ter spend­ing close to $10 mil­lion here in Ohio, right now it is neckand-neck, it is go­ing to be close to a tie, and some­body will win, but not by much. I don’t know how they de­clare that any­thing but a dis­ap­point­ment.”

Each of the can­di­dates has vowed to stay in the race at least through this month, and as if to un­der­score that com­mit­ment, Mr. Gin­grich and Mr. Paul had al­ready re­leased public cam­paign sched­ules show­ing them trav­el­ing to Kansas ahead of that state’s Satur­day cau­cuses.

With the ex­cep­tion of Mr. Paul, the other can­di­dates also made video ad­dresses to the Amer­i­can Is­rael Public Af­fairs Com­mit­tee’s meet­ing in Washington, where they em­braced Is­rael and lev­eled stiff crit­i­cism at the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­proach to­ward Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Vot­ers cast their bal­lots in Ge­or­gia’s Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial pri­mary at an el­e­men­tary school in Johns Creek. For­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich won Ge­or­gia.

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