Romney wins Three States; Gingrich And Santorum Also Triumph

Columbus, Ohio (CNN) -- Mitt Romney will win three states in Super Tuesday primaries, while Newt Gingrich grabbed a vital triumph in Georgia and Rick Santorum will win in Tennessee, CNN projected.

Newt Gingrich gives a victory speech Tuesday night at his campaign headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

Columbus, Ohio (CNN) -- Mitt Romney will win three states in Super Tuesday primaries, while Newt Gingrich grabbed a vital triumph in Georgia and Rick Santorum will win in Tennessee, CNN projected.

Santorum's victory showed his continuing strength among conservative voters, while Gingrich's victory in the state that sent him to Congress allows him to keep his campaign going.

The Santorum victory also hurt Gingrich's Southern strategy after victories in the neighboring states of South Carolina and now Georgia.

Romney, meanwhile, easily won as expected in Virginia, Vermont and Massachusetts, the state where he served as governor and considers home.

The early results from contests in 10 states that put 419 delegates up for grabs were expected, based on polls and the fact that two of the candidates -- Santorum and Texas Rep. Ron Paul -- weren't on the Virginia ballot.

For Gingrich, who represented Georgia's sixth congressional district for two decades, the victory in his home state provides a new boost after a string of defeats since his only other primary triumph in South Carolina.

"Thank you Georgia! It is gratifying to win my home state so decisively to launch our March Momentum," Gingrich said Tuesday night in a Twitter post.

A Gingrich campaign source also told CNN on condition of not being identified that the former House speaker will become the third GOP candidate to get Secret Service protection starting Wednesday. Romney and Santorum already have that protection.

Romney entered Super Tuesday off of three wins last week and a growing lead in the delegate count toward the 1,144 needed to secure the nomination to face President Barack Obama in November.

In excerpts of his planned remarks to supporters later Tuesday night in Boston, Romney focused on Obama in trying to sound like the presumptive nominee.

Super Tuesday results

Citing unemployment that remains above 8%, Romney will say the figure is just an "inconvenient statistic" in the eyes of the Obama administration.

"But those numbers are more than data on a spreadsheet; they are worried families and anxious faces," Romney will say, according to the excerpts. " And tonight, I'd like to say to each of them: You have not been forgotten. We will not leave you behind. Our campaign is on the move. And real change is finally on the way,"

Romney also will signal a continued battle for his campaign.

"Tonight we've taken one more step toward restoring the promise of America," he will say, according to the excerpts. "Tomorrow we wake up and we start again. And the next day we do the same. And so it will go, day by day, step by step, door to door, heart to heart."

Tuesday was the biggest single day of the primary season, and included showdowns in several states that will determine the ability of Santorum, Gingrich and Paul to blunt Romney's momentum toward what many believe will be his inevitable nomination.

So far, Romney has accumulated 207 delegates to 86 for Santorum, 46 for Paul and 39 for Gingrich, according to CNN estimates.

Georgia had the most delegates up for grabs on Tuesday with 76, but Ohio, because of its status as a crucial battleground state in the general election, is considered the main prize.

Delegate tracker | delegate calculator

Early results showed Romney with a slight lead in Ohio. A CNN/ORC International poll released Monday indicates that Ohio is a dead heat between Romney and Santorum, with each grabbing 32% of likely GOP primary voters. Gingrich, the former House speaker, was at 14% and Paul was at 11%.

Surveys released a week earlier suggested Santorum led Romney, but they were conducted before Romney's victories in Arizona and his native Michigan on February 28, followed by winning the Washington state caucuses on Saturday.

Super Tuesday live blog

A leading GOP strategist thinks if Romney does well across the board on Tuesday night, he could come close to locking up his bid for the nomination.

"Even a come-from-behind win in Ohio won't give Romney the momentum he needs to put this race away, but Romney could seal this deal Tuesday if he takes not only Ohio, but Tennessee," said CNN contributor Alex Castellanos.

"If Romney demonstrates he can win in the South, GOP establishment and conservative voters will rally around him and money for his opponents would begin to dry up," added Castellanos, who was a top media adviser for Romney's 2008 nomination bid but who is not taking sides this cycle. "The real test Tuesday is this: Can Romney win not only in Ohio but in the South?"

Romney's campaign was bolstered by endorsements from leading conservatives this week including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Three things to watch on Super Tuesday

The endorsements indicated a growing push in the Republican Party to show Romney can win the trust of conservatives, despite concerns that he is too moderate.

Thanks to a sweep of contests in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri on February 7, Santorum went from a long-shot candidate to a co-frontrunner, but going into Super Tuesday he hadn't had a victory since.

"Simply put, he needs to stop the bleeding after three straight losses by winning several states of his own -- including the big one in Ohio," said Gentry Collins, a former political director for the Republican National Committee and the Republican Governors Association.

Santorum and Gingrich were not on the ballot in Virginia because they failed to get enough signatures to qualify, and Santorum was not eligible to win some delegates in Ohio because his campaign failed to file required paperwork in some congressional districts and didn't submit a full list of delegates in others.

"If Santorum wins one or two, but fewer than Romney and the narrative becomes his campaign was too inept to make the Virginia ballot or several districts in Ohio, he's in trouble," said Collins, who ran Romney's 2008 operation but is neutral this time. "Remember, Republicans are hungry for a winner against Obama. If the stench of incompetence sticks to him, he's toast."

Paul has focused his efforts on winning delegates in the caucus states so that he can wield influence at the Republican convention in August.

Other primaries on Tuesday are in Oklahoma, Vermont and Massachusetts, while Idaho, North Dakota and Alaska are holding caucuses.

Here is a state-by-state breakdown:

* Alaska is holding caucuses from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. ET. There are 24 delegates at stake, to be allocated on a proportional basis.

* Georgia held a primary, with polls closing at 7 p.m. ET. There are 76 delegates at stake, allocated on a proportional basis.

Georgia results | Georgia exit polls

* Idaho is holding caucuses beginning at 9 p.m. ET. There are 32 delegates at stake, to be allocated on a proportional basis.

* Massachusetts held a primary, with polls closing at 8 p.m. ET. There are 38 delegates at stake, to be allocated on a proportional basis.

Massachusetts results | Massachusetts exit polls

* North Dakota is holding caucuses from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET. There are 28 delegates at state, to be allocated on a proportional basis.

* Ohio held a primary, with polls closing at 7:30 p.m. ET. There are 63 delegates at stake, to be awarded on a proportional basis.

Ohio results | Ohio exit polls

* Oklahoma is holding a primary, with polls closing at 8 p.m. ET. There are 40 delegates at stake, to be allocated on a proportional basis.

Oklahoma results | Oklahoma exit polls

* Tennessee held a primary, with polls closing at 8 p.m. ET. There are 55 delegates at stake, to be awarded on a proportional basis.

* Vermont held a primary, with polls closing at 7 p.m. ET. There are 17 delegates at stake, to be awarded on a proportional basis.

Vermont results | Vermont exit polls

* Virginia held primary, with polls closing at 7 p.m. There are 46 delegates at stake, to be allocated on a proportional basis.

Virginia results | Virginia exit polls