By Grace Ferrell, News Editor
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney solidified his delegate lead with a strong Super Tuesday showing, squeaking past former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) in battleground Ohio to move one step closer to the Republican nomination.
In Tennessee, Santorum captured 37 percent of the vote, garnering 40.86 percent in Madison County. He claimed 22 of Tennessee’s 35 delegates, Romney took eight delegates, and Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, won five.
“It’s a long road until November, and we’ll have to keep working,” said Trevor Sewell, freshman music and Christian studies double major and county organizer for the Rick Santorum for President campaign. “Should he become the nominee and go onto the general election against President Obama, we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but tonight is definitely an exciting moment for us.”
Romney captured 28 percent of the votes in Tennessee, followed by Gingrich with 24 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, with 9 percent.
Beyond Tennessee, Santorum won North Dakota and Oklahoma. Romney captured Virginia, Massachusetts, Vermont, Idaho, Alaska, and Ohio. Gingrich snatched Georgia.
Santorum, a Catholic, appeals to West Tennesseans like Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, did in the 2008 presidential election, said Steve Maroney, Madison County chairman for Romney’s campaign.
“It is not surprising that Santorum would do well in the same areas that Huckabee did well, especially with evangelicals,” Maroney said. “I’m actually encouraged that Romney did well in some of the major population bases in Tennessee.”
While Romney’s campaign hoped to have a better turnout in Madison County, Maroney said the governor is “in it for the long haul.”
Delegates for the national convention are selected from the results of Super Tuesday’s elections. A candidate will need 1,114 delegates to receive the Republican nomination for president at this August’s national convention in Tampa. A total of 419 delegate slots were up for grabs Tuesday. Romney walked away with 179 delegates, Santorum got 64, Gingrich won 52 from Georgia and Paul received 14.
Super Tuesday represents a high point for Santorum’s campaign, said Caraline Rickard, senior history and political science double major and Tennessee College Democrats president.
“He will probably make a good showing in other Southern states because it is a more religious and conservative area,” Rickard said. “But once we get out of the South and out of the sort of climate that Rick Santorum thrives in — that religious-based conservatism — he is going to lose (support).”
However, a match-up between Obama and Santorum would tip the scales in the president’s favor, Rickard said.
“In the long run, I think it will be Romney, and he will be a harder match (for Obama) than Santorum,” Rickard said.
No matter which of the candidates is named the Republican nominee, Maroney said Super Tuesday voters seemed excited to get started on the process of voting Obama out of the White House. Final figures from Alaska were unavailable at press time.
Super Tuesday Audio Report