Mitt Romney Stacks Delegates and Squeaks by in Ohio

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In a victory speech in Atlanta, Gingrich called himself the "tortoise" who will win the nomination and mocked the attention given to Santorum after the ex-senator won three primaries in states that the other candidates had mostly ignored.

"The news media, once again, desperate to prove Gingrich was wrong, suddenly said, 'Ah, now we have the person who's going to be the non-Romney,' " Gingrich said.

Making his pitch to his supporters, Gingrich called himself "the one candidate who can debate Barack Obama," drawing on one of his noteworthy strengths that has been evident in the nearly two dozen GOP primary debates.

As voters in 10 states made their picks for the Republican nomination tonight, Romney was working to write the final chapter of the primary season on the biggest single day of contests in the race.

Romney, wearing the crown of official front-runner after recent wins in Michigan, Arizona and Washington, has been battling for the nomination for longer than it once seemed he would be. His main rival, Santorum, emerged from nowhere first in Iowa and then in a string of states last month as the "conservative alternative" to Romney.

While Santorum has been successful in riding occasional crests of momentum, "Super Tuesday" is more about the number of delegates who will be awarded to the candidates, and Romney appeared poised to be in the best position after the dust settles.

The candidates are fighting for 437 delegates just today, more than all the delegates that have been won already. Romney is in the lead with 203, and Santorum is in a solid second place with 92. The race ends once a candidate gets 1,144.

Georgia offers the most delegates in today's voting with 76. Other big states are Ohio (66), Tennessee (58), Virginia (49) and Oklahoma (43). Three other states voting in caucuses today award fewer --- Idaho, North Dakota and Alaska.

Though Santorum trails Romney in delegates, he is counting on a resurgence of momentum to carry him through the rest of the primary so he can retain his status as a viable candidate.

"We've won races all over this country against the odds," Santorum said tonight. "When they thought, 'OK, he's finally finished,' we keep coming back."

Paul was the first candidate of the night to speak. He told his supporters in Fargo, N.D., hours before polls closed that "the rest of the candidates represent the status quo."

Making a rare cameo on the Super Tuesday stage was the president himself, who called his first press conference of the year this afternoon, perhaps not by coincidence.

Asked vaguely to opine on Romney and the happenings within the GOP today, Obama gave his shortest answer: "Good luck tonight."

He added: "Really."

The nomination battle is unlikely to actually end after the votes are all counted by Wednesday morning, but Romney is expected to be in better position with a comfortable lead in delegates, even though his front-runner armor is dinged up because of the fight in Ohio.

If the GOP primary becomes a two-man race between Romney and Santorum, the scramble for delegates will be similar to the delegate hunt that characterized the 2008 Democratic primary between Obama and Hillary Clinton -- a long-fought campaign that delved frequently into arcane tactics understood by few.

If that's the case, Romney's win in Virginia would be potentially huge, because neither Santorum nor Gingrich, who didn't get enough signatures to get on the ballot, are eligible to get any delegates.

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