Republican presidential candidates competed in 10 nominating contests on Super Tuesday, marking the biggest day in the election season thus far.
With 419 delegates at stake, there were more delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday than had been allocated in all the previous primaries and caucuses combined.
For Mitt Romney, Tuesday was all about maintaining momentum. Coming off dual victories in Arizona and Michigan last week, the former Massachusetts governor went into Super Tuesday with strong leads in many of the states. However, several contests threatened to throw a wrench into Romney's plan to march toward the nomination.
Most notable was the contest in Ohio, where Romney and Rick Santorum were in a virtual tie leading up to the primary. Despite being the tightest race, there was also a marked enthusiasm gap in the Buckeye State. Early voting was down compared to years past, while exit polls showed that many voters had reservations about the candidates they voted for on Tuesday.
Below is a look at the biggest winners and losers from Super Tuesday.
Despite the hype surrounding Super Tuesday, few of the contests were actually interesting to follow. With most of the 10 states written off as all but decided weeks ago, political observers were left with one hotly contested race: Ohio. The state was touted as "must-win" and "make-or-break," as a win for Rick Santorum or a loss for Mitt Romney would make big waves in the Republican primary contest. The race in the Buckeye State proved to be the night's most interesting, as Romney and Santorum remained neck and neck as the results rolled in.
Limbaugh came under fire after calling Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" on his popular syndicated radio show last week. The backlash was almost immediate, with many politicians repudiating Limbaugh's comments. Soon, dozens of sponsors decided to pull advertising from his show. Limbaugh's comments dominated the news cycle leading up to Super Tuesday, calling attention to the contentious and often highly personal nature of the contraception debate that has been a mainstay of the Republican primaries.
Leading up to Tuesday's primary in the Old Dominion State, Romney had the support of two key GOP leaders: Gov. Bob McDonnell and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Picking primary winner Romney may have been an easy choice for Cantor and McDonnell. However, Ron Paul, the sole Romney opponent on the Virginia ballot, defied expectations with a fairly strong showing in the state. Earning 41 percent of the vote, the Texas congressman picked up a fewdelegates in Virginia.
It may have been the biggest single day of the political season so far, but voters seemed underwhelmed in many of the key Super Tuesday contests. Exit poll data showed that many voters held reservations about the candidate they voted for, indicating that they were not very excited about the GOP pool overall. Additionally, many precincts reported decreased voter turnout compared to years past. As President Barack Obama continues to poll well against the Republican field nationally, the lack of fervor for the current crop of candidates may renew calls by GOP operatives for another Republican to jump in the fray.
Exit polls showed that independent voters played a key role in Ohio's close race, with a significant number of unaffiliated voters swaying toward Santorum. HuffPost reported: Former Sen. Rick Santorum has been largely viewed as one of the conservative alternatives to ex-Gov. Mitt Romney. The argument has been that Romney's business experience and moderate tone could attract independents and swing voters in the general election against President Barack Obama. But Super Tuesday, exit polls show independents went for Santorum in Ohio. Santorum attracted 35 percent of independents, compared with Romney's 31 percent.
Romney won Ohio and a majority of Super Tuesday delegates, but doubts about his campaign continue as grassroots favorites made the night difficult. Santorum made a strong showing in the Buckeye State, on top of his wins in Oklahoma, Tennesseee and North Dakota, while Romney continued to fall short among crucial evangelical voters. Even in Virginia, where Romney was in a two-way race with Paul, the Texas congressman grabbed 41 percent of the vote and won among late-deciders. The Romney campaign marches on, and the baggage is coming right along with him.