Romney projected to win Ohio, shares spotlight with Santorum

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WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney squeezed out a win in pivotal Ohio, captured four other states with ease and padded his delegate lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination but was forced to share the Super Tuesday spotlight with a resurgent Rick
Santorum.

On the busiest night of the campaign, Romney scored a home-state win in Massachusetts to go with primary victories in Vermont and in Virginia, where neither Santorum nor Newt Gingrich was on the ballot. He added the Idaho caucuses to his column.

Ohio was the big win, though, and the closest contest of all.

Santorum countered crisply, winning primaries in Oklahoma and Tennessee and the North Dakota caucuses, raising fresh doubts about Romney's ability to corral the votes of conservatives in some of the most Republican states in the country.

Ohio was the marquee matchup, a second industrial state showdown in as many weeks between Romney and Santorum. It drew the most campaigning and television advertisements of all 10 Super Tuesday contests and for good reason--no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying the state in the fall.

Gingrich had a victory in his column -- his first win in more than six weeks. The former House speaker triumphed at home in Georgia, but a barrage of attack ads by a Super PAC supporting Romney helped hold him below 50 percent and forced him to share the delegates.

Ron Paul pinned his hopes on Idaho and Alaska as he scratched for his first victory of the campaign season.

Romney padded his lead in the hunt for delegates to the Republican National Convention. It takes 1,144 delegates to win the nomination this summer.

Not surprisingly, given his mixed night, he focused on the delegate chase.

"This is a process of gathering enough delegates to become the nominee, and I think we're on track to have that happen," he told reporters as he arrived home in Massachusetts to vote in the primary.

Later, he told supporters, "I'm going to get this nomination."

Santorum waited until Oklahoma and Tennessee fell into his column before speaking to cheering supporters in Ohio. "This was a big night tonight," he said. "We have won in the West, the Midwest and the South, and we're ready to win across this country."

In all, there were primaries in Virginia, Vermont, Ohio, Massachusetts, Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Caucuses in North Dakota, Idaho and Alaska rounded out the calendar.

Some 419 delegates were at stake in the 10 states.

Romney picked up at least 129 delegates during the evening, Santorum 47, Gingrich 42 and Paul at least 10.

That gave the former Massachusetts governor 332, more than all his rivals combined, a total that included endorsements from members of the Republican National Committee who automatically attend the convention and can support any candidate they choose.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.