After all the hype, bluster, lead changes and fretting about low voter turnout, early exit polls revealed that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney had scored three early victories in Super Tuesday's primary races.
Romney, who was hoping that the 10-state contest would help him finally solidify his status as the leading GOP presidential candidate, was on track to score a decisive victory in his home state of Massachusetts, as well as a win in Virginia, where his only opponent was Congressman Ron Paul. In that contest, The New York Times was projecting that Romney would secure 59 percent of the vote to Paul's 41. Romney's lead in Vermont, however, was slimmer at 39 percent to Paul's 27 with less than one-quarter of precincts reporting.
In a victory he said he needed to secure in order to stay in the mix, former Georgia Congressman and House Speaker Newt Gingrich was able to pull off a big win in Georgia, the state with the day's richest prize. Though he will share the 76-delegate count with either Romney or Santorum (depending on how much of the vote they end up getting), it was likely enough of a victory to keep the Lazarus-like Gingrich in the hunt and to secure him Secret Service protection as of tomorrow. At press time, he had 47 percent of the vote to Santorum's 24 and Romney's 22.
The day's second-biggest prize was in the crucial swing state of Ohio, where 66 delegates were at stake and the vote was much too close to call at press time. CNN had Romney at 42 percent to Santorum's 36 with just a fraction of precincts reporting. Not only is Ohio considered a pivotal state in the general election, but no Republican has made it to the White House without carrying the state in the general election.
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Santorum appeared to be on the path to winning in Oklahoma, and he's been declared the winner in Tennessee, which looks like it could be his only walk-off victory of the night. Results from caucuses in Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota will not be available until later in the night.
Super Tuesday boasted a total of 419 delegates total, the biggest haul to date in the 2012 GOP race. But as gaudy as that number is, it represents about one-third of all available delegates. The winning candidate will have to roll up 1,144 to secure the nomination and face off against President Obama in November, and with the winner's circle still overstuffed, that path seems like it will continue to have a number of significant obstacles.
MTV has Super Tuesday covered, with reporters on the scene in Georgia, Ohio and Massachusetts! Check back for up-to-the-minute coverage on all the primaries, and stick with Power Of 12 throughout the presidential election season.