U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was projected winner in three states in Super Tuesday contests of the Republican presidential nomination battle, leading Rick Santorum, who won two states, as polls across 10 states of the country began to close on Tuesday evening, according to projections made by U.S. media.
U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney
Romney was projected winner in Virginia, Vermont, and Massachusetts, where he was once governor.
His win in Virginia was especially important as former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, failed to qualify for the state's stringent rules on state wide ballot access requirements -- 10,000 signatures, with at least 400 from each of the 11 congressional districts, all to be collected by Virginia residents.
Virginia has 49 delegates, and a decisive win here could potentially provide Romney with a chance to sweep the delegates here, further enlarge the lead he enjoys over Santorum, who emerged in the past month as his main rival in the race.
Romney also was projected to win in Vermont, which has 17 delegates. He cruised to an easy win in Massachusetts, but is in dead heat with Santorum in Ohio, the most contested race in the day, according to exit polls.
A sign that the race is far from over, Santorum won big in Tennessee and Oklahoma, securing big lead over Romney.
As Romney's home-state advantage holds, Gingrich's did as well. He is projected to win the GOP nomination contest in his home state Georgia. This is his second win after beating Romney in South Carolina.
A win in Georgia, which has with 76 delegates, is important for Gingrich's struggling campaign to stay afloat. Addressing supporters at his Atlanta headquarters, he touted his campaign's ability to stay alive against difficult odds, saying the campaign is full of "bunny rabbits" who ran through, but he remains the tortoise who takes "one step at a time."
"In the morning, we are going on to Alabama," Kansas and Mississippi, "and that is just this week," said Gingrich.
The projection on Georgia by CNN was made from exit polls, and Romney came in second, ahead of Santorum and Ron Paul, the other two main candidates.
Polls are also held in Idaho, Alaska and North Dakota. The ten states have 437 delegates, about one fifth of the party's delegates.
The day's limelight wasn't trained on the Republicans. President Barack Obama came out during the day for a rare press conference at the White House, dismissing the Republican candidates' threats to take military action to stop Iran's nuclear program.
"If some of these folks think that it's time to launch a war, they should say so. And they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be," he said.