Mitt Romney assured his supporters he would eventually earn the 2012 Republican nomination, as he savoured Super Tuesday victories and savaged Barack Obama’s “failed” presidency.
The former Massachusetts governor received a hometown hero’s welcome from supporters who cheered his multiple victories, capped with a projected knife-edged win in Ohio, the grand prize of the 10-state bonanza.
Romney, fighting to solidify his frontrunner status in the Republican Party race to determine who faces Obama in the November elections, spent days campaigning in Ohio, but he made no mention of the state during his speech, which came before CNN called the state contest in his favour.
Instead, he tore into Obama, to the delight of some 1 000 cheering supporters united in their conviction that Romney is the Republican most capable of ousting the Democratic incumbent from the White House.
“To the millions of Americans who look around and can only see jobs they can’t get and bills they can’t pay, I have a message,” Romney said amid deafening chants of “USA, USA” and “We need Mitt.”
“You have not failed. You have a president that has failed you, and that’s going to change,” he said to roars of applause.
“This campaign is not about a name on the ballot. It’s about saving the soul of America.”
Romney said that as president he would “get our economy back on track and get our citizens back to work. And unlike President Obama, I actually have the experience to deliver on that promise.”
Romney won Massachusetts by a landslide, and took Vermont and Virginia as well, according to early results, but Rick Santorum won Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota, while former House speaker Newt Gingrich took Georgia.
“There are three states tonight under our belt and counting,” Romney told supporters in a ballroom in the Westin Hotel in Boston, with his wife Ann beaming proudly at his side.
“We will get more before this night is over. We’re on our way,” he said.
“I’m not going to let you down. I’m going to get this nomination.”
Indeed, later in the night he added to his delegate count, with TV networks calling Idaho for Romney.
Romney brought the diehard supporters, the huge American flags, the rock music and the rousing political rhetoric befitting a Super Tuesday victory bash, he left the ballroom unsure if he had won the night’s biggest prize.
More than a few supporters had a sinking feeling as they looked up at jumbo screens earlier in the evening and saw Santorum ahead in Ohio.
“Nooo,” nurse Antonia Alen cried at the screen, her hand covering her mouth.
“This country is going down and down. The economy here is terrible, and Romney is an expert in the economy. He has to win,” she said.
Later in the night Romney clawed back from his Ohio deficit, then took a 0.6 percent lead with some 95% of districts reporting. CNN called the race in his favour at 5.30am GMT on Wednesday.
But even with the Ohio win, some experts said Super Tuesday should not be seen as a great success for Romney.
“I wish I could say that this is a better night for Mitt Romney,” Republican political campaign consultant Brad Marston told AFP.
“Who knows how the final numbers come down,” but “I don’t think he takes a lot of momentum out of tonight,” Marston said. He added, however, that ultimately Romney will end up “at the top of the ticket.”
Ron Kaufman, a Republican National Committee member and Romney backer, said he isn’t worried about whether Romney can inspire conservatives in November.
“Primaries are always contact sports. None was more nasty than the Democratic primary four years ago,” he told AFP, referring to the months-long slog between Obama and Hillary Clinton.
“We have the most votes, the most delegates, the most states. So tell me who is having trouble connecting. It’s Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.”
Romney, who turns 65 next week, acknowledged earlier Tuesday that the campaign has been a long slog, saying he’ll enjoy finally spending a night in his own bed.
“Tomorrow, we wake up and we start again. And the next day, we’ll do the same,” he told his supporters.
“And so we’ll go day by day, step by step, door by door, heart to heart. There will be good days, there will be bad days,” he added.
“But on November 6th, we’re going to stand united. Not only having won an election, but having saved a future.” — AFP