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Super Tuesday; Gingrich Wins Georgia

Aired March 6, 2012 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": We can make our first projection of the night. Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, he wins Georgia. Seventy-six delegates at stake. Newt Gingrich the winner in his home state of Georgia, this was expected. All the polls showing he had a substantial lead. We can now formally project that Newt Gingrich will win Georgia, 76 delegates at stake.

We cannot yet make a formal projection, two other states closing right now, Virginia and Vermont, although, Mitt Romney is significantly ahead according to our exit polls in both of the states. We want to get a little bit more information in both of these states before we make a formal projection, but right now, we can't make that. Mitt Romney though significantly ahead in both Virginia and Vermont. Stand by. We will be able to make a projection at some point.

I want to go over to Newt Gingrich headquarters in Georgia right now. The crowd is gathering right now. I suspect some of them haven't even heard yet that we've made our projection, but let's listen in for a second.


BLITZER: All right they are dancing. They're singing a little bit. They're going to be pretty excited when -- once they fully know what is going on. Let's share with you the exit poll information on these three states that have just closed right now and let's put them up on the wall over here. The Georgia exit poll numbers, and here it will explain why we were able to make this projection that Newt Gingrich is the winner in his home state of Georgia.

Take a look at this. According to our exit poll, he got 45 percent, nearly half of the Republicans who voted in the primary in Georgia. Twenty-six percent for Mitt Romney, 20 percent for Rick Santorum, only eight percent for Ron Paul, a significant win, a significant win, we project, for Newt Gingrich. He needed his home state. He gets his home state of Georgia. Let's take a look at Vermont right now. We have the exit poll numbers in Vermont and take a look at this, as I said, significant lead for Mitt Romney in Vermont right next door to his home state of Massachusetts.

Thirty-eight percent, and look at who is coming in second, according to our exit place, 27 percent for Ron Paul, 23 percent for Rick Santorum and only eight percent for Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich didn't do so well in Vermont, did very well in Georgia. Let's go over to John King and take a look at some of the early information we are getting. Georgia, big win, he needed this win to keep on going. I will assume he will keep on going after he carries his home state, Newt Gingrich.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING USA": He very much needed to win. The question is can he win anywhere else tonight or will he only win his home state, but he starts with a win, Wolf, the first call. Let's take a quick look at why people were voting, and who, just who was voting. Voting by ideology in Georgia, in our exit poll we asked people are you very conservative, somewhat conservative, moderate or liberal. The largest group of voters in Georgia nearly four in 10 describe themselves as very conservative.

Let's take a look. Those voters going more than a majority, 51 percent go for Speaker Gingrich. There is your victory right now. Senator Santorum in second place, Governor Romney third, so Newt Gingrich wins the most conservative voters in his state. What about those who say they are somewhat conservative voters in the state. If you look at that, Gingrich again winning, a more narrow margin, Governor Romney second with 33 percent, but when you start winning the most conservative and the somewhat conservative voters, guess what, you're going to win the state.

Let's look at the state of Georgia today. This has been across the board in all of our states; the number one issue is the country is the economy. The budget deficit tends to run second among conservative Republican voters, the economy number one issue -- look at that -- a 17-point gap between Speaker Gingrich who wins in his home state over Governor Romney. We will watch this one play out, a conservative electorate in Georgia, Wolf. Let's look at Vermont, very different here.

Nearly seven in 10 of those voting, more than 60 percent of those voting in Georgia are evangelicals. More than 70 percent in Tennessee describe themselves as evangelicals. The state of Vermont a very different electorate tonight, 74 percent say no, only 26 percent, one quarter of evangelicals in the state of Vermont. One more thing that we want to look at in Vermont, do you describe yourselves as very conservative, somewhat conservative or moderate to liberal, first state we've seen that. More than half of the electorate in a Republican presidential primary in the state of Vermont describing themselves as moderate or liberal, 29 percent somewhat conservative, 18 percent very conservative, as you noted just a moment ago, we see the exit poll numbers. They suggest a Romney lead there, but we want to get some actual votes, a little bit more data before we go beyond that.

BLITZER: I suspect that'll be very, very soon, but we'll see. Vermont, Virginia, remember in Virginia only two of the four candidates were on the ballot. Two of the others, Santorum and Gingrich did not get enough signatures to be on the ballot, so we will see; Romney is ahead, according to these exit polls in both of the states. We will see when we can make a formal projection -- Anderson, take it away.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "AC 360": Yes, has Mitt Romney in your opinion been able to make inroads with conservatives or has he just been successful in keeping them divided between Santorum and Gingrich?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wouldn't have gotten this far if he had not made inroads among conservatives. There's no question about it. And you can see in Nevada, for example, where he had a contested race; he cleaned everybody's clocks with conservatives. In the rest of the country, South Carolina, for example, he lost. So it was pocket by pocket, but there's no way he can be doing as well as he is doing going into the Super Tuesday unless he was making inroads is the right road. He is not winning them, but he's making inroads.

COOPER: Paul, you argue that he has done that by moving to the right.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: A terrible price he's paying for the general election. Two of the most important sub groups of the electorate in November are going to be single women, particularly, but women and Latinos. Look at women. He is crushing Santorum on television with negative ads, attacking Rick Santorum on contraception, believe it or not. Seriously that's what he is doing.

He's running ads saying Rick Santorum once voted to fund contraception for poor women, which is true. It's an accurate ad. And he drove Rick Perry out of the race by attacking Rick Perry from the right on immigration. Well when you're to the right of Rick Santorum on contraception to the right of Rick Perry on immigration, you are too far right to win swing voters in November.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney is too far to the right?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't believe Romney has moved to the right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, he has got the bends.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: He's a Republican. He is on the right. He doesn't have to move to the right. But if Romney actually were as far right as Paul says, he wouldn't have these problems. He'd have the nomination all wrapped up. When you look at survey numbers and you ask American voters who is more extreme, is Barack Obama extremely liberal or is Mitt Romney extremely conservative, guess what, Barack Obama is 50-something extremely liberal. Mitt Romney is only 30-something extremely conservative. What Paul is talking about has not happened. And as far as the Republican war on women, I actually checked the data today and it turns out half of Republican voters are women. Who knew?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, well. It is not the war that we are concerned about. It's the assault on women's reproductive health, but we --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney said quote --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- "I totally and completely oppose any effort to ban abortion --

COOPER: I see Gloria Borger shaking her head --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thirty-six out of 44 states --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) contraception, excuse me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- are trying to hurt women's reproductive health.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know but the Republican Party has had a really bad month when it comes to women. They took what should have been a victory for them when Barack Obama made a decision that the Catholic Church did not like and turned it into a complete defeat for themselves and turning it into an issue about contraception.

COOPER: Do you think it's been a defeat for Republicans or do you think --

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You know Gloria made some point about the last couple of months in Republican inter (ph) fighting with women, but I would say to you that Barack Obama for the last three years has done incredible big damage to himself among Americans. I mean Barack Obama --

BORGER: Women are Americans by the way.

FLEISCHER: I'm talking about the whole country. Barack Obama's primary was the first two years in office, and in that primary, Barack Obama governed so far from the left, pushed himself so far to the left the American people overwhelmingly rejected President Obama, the Democrats in the House and the Democrats in the Senate.


BEGALA: In the last "Wall Street Journal" poll a few days ago, the president's approval rating was 50. Mitt Romney's was 28, the lowest of a front-runner in recent memory. Twenty-eight percent approval, Romney is getting killed on the social issue, and he knows it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a second --


BEGALA: I guarantee you he doesn't stand up screaming and yelling --


CASTELLANOS: There is a difference --


CASTELLANOS: But there's a difference between Romney and the Republican Party. Gloria is right. The Republican Party has been dragged to a place overall in this process where the party, itself, is hurting with women, but Romney is a little bit different than that. He's an establishment Republican --


CASTELLANOS: -- not a movement conservative, and the party is -- has been hurt with women, but the case Republicans are going to make in the fall is going to be economic with women, not social issues. Two-thirds of (INAUDIBLE) new small businesses in this country are started by who, women. They can't do that now, because Barack Obama's taxes and spending and regulatory climate that is choking women-owned businesses in the country.


CASTELLANOS: So there is a lot of --




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now -- wait a minute --


BORGER: Right now "The Wall Street Journal" poll yesterday put Barack Obama against Mitt Romney with women, and Barack Obama won by 18 points.

COOPER: I also just saw a poll of -- among Latino voters where Barack Obama was, I mean, his, I don't remember what the actual number was -- 70 to --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- 14 percent he is leading among Hispanic voters. Look the first thing President Obama, not Barack Obama, President Obama did when he came into the White House --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is disrespectful because it is always --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it's President Barack Obama. I called George -- President George W. Bush and I think we need to show respect at times, but the first thing he did when he became president was to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Act. That was a bill that would ensure equal pay for women. He appointed two women to the United States Supreme Court. Woman -- and women business owners know that President Obama has been voting for small business, 16 small business tax credits, so women will support a candidate who will support their economic future and I believe that candidate will be President Barack Obama.

COOPER: I want to bring in Jessica Yellin also, Jessica from the White House perspective, I mean it does seem like President Obama has -- was very quick to reach out to the woman who testified to Democrats on the Hill who Rush Limbaugh had attacked. Was that just about politics?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well -- look it is hard not to see it through political lenses in this environment, and you know what Democrats will say is how could the president resist this opportunity, Anderson, because the Republicans as Gloria has made the point, have just sort of handed them this issue. They had a religion issue to begin with when the president first came out with a contraception mandate and then they turned it into this ongoing women's health issue when Republicans went for this Blunt amendment.

The bottom line, Anderson, is you have to look at this through the lens of the suburban swing women's vote. Suburban women voters are going to be a key swing vote in this election. Both sides going after this demographic and it is no surprise that both sides are working this issue as best they can, the White House especially, because this is a women's vote that they want to get come November.

COOPER: Ari, do you think the Democrats have changed this into a women's issue as opposed to a religion issue?

FLEISCHER: Well, from the beginning I always said this issue was about the power of the government to dictate to somebody in the private sector that you must provide a product and you must provide it for free. The government should not have the power to do that whether it is a women's issue or men's issue or any kind of issue and especially if it infringes on somebody's religion. But the biggest issue in this campaign still for men, for women, for all of us is that the president told us unemployment wouldn't exceed eight percent. It did. The president promised us that the deficit would be cut in half. It's in the trillions of dollars and the president's budget will increase deficits -- that to $25 trillion from 15 today. These are the big issues of the day. This is what this economy and this election should be about.

CASTELLANOS: I want to answer your question. Yes, the Democrats have turned this into a women's issue, because that is the president's strategy. Ari is right. What the president does not want this election to be is a referendum on his economic performance. What is their strategy? They can't win the middle. They've moved too far left for Independents, so they're going to shrink the middle until there is no middle left. How do you do that? You polarize the election on every conceivable axis. You now pit men against women. You pit rich against poor. You pit you know everybody against everybody, and that is the strategy here. Shrink the middle until there isn't anything left -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These fault lines have been in American politics for --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's effective politics, but it's very destructive.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: These fault lines have been in American politics -- you know tell a woman with endometriosis that in her birth control plan or her insurance plan that she cannot have access to the full range of reproductive health services. Tell a woman --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not telling her that.

BRAZILE: Tell a woman --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course she can. We're just not going to make Catholics pay for it.

BRAZILE: Tell a -- no we are not asking Catholics --


BRAZILE: This is -- there are 28 states that allow exemption. You see the Republicans want to make this about sex. This is about women's health.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's about the power of the government --

BEGALA: It's about choosing your battlegrounds and Mitt Romney has decided this is instructive, decided or his Super PAC -- I don't know which -- but Team Romney has decided to advertise on this issue of contraception, attacking Rick Santorum on contraception. Mitt Romney's position is that he wants to zero out what is called Title 10, which is a little over $300 million that provides contraception to poor women. Over five million Americans get their contraception through Title 10. It's been around for 42 years. President Bush Senior was one of the congressmen who wrote that law 42 years ago. Mitt Romney wants to go to zero. That's a legitimate issue.


CASTELLANOS: That's totally wrong.


CASTELLANOS: That's totally wrong.

BEGALA: No, Mitt's position (INAUDIBLE) about Title 10.


BEGALA: I mean we have to have an honest discussion of facts here. CASTELLANOS: Absolutely and the truth is that 24 percent of the funding that goes to America's largest abortion provider comes from Title 10 and that is what Republicans want to zero out. That's it.

COOPER: I want to bring David Gergen in because I know he was wanting to get in.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: As a general proposition I think that it's been -- Donna has been right about this, that this -- these issues have helped -- the Democrats have helped Obama, but I also think it is important not to universalize or make sweeping assertions. It was striking to me today that the "Boston Globe" reported that Scott Brown has now -- in the Senate race in Massachusetts -- this has opened up an eight or nine-point lead against Elizabeth Warren and they reported one of the reasons is Scott Brown as a Republican seems to be making headway against Elizabeth Warren is over this contraception issue in Massachusetts. I found that quite striking --

COOPER: What do you make of that?

GERGEN: I make of it that we ought to be very, very careful in asserting -- making broad assertions about how these issues cut. I think they cut differently in different places overall. I think Obama has been nimble in using this Rush issue. It is a campaign issue. It's one of these things that comes up in a campaign and he's been fast on the trigger --



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- Title 10 and Mitt Romney is --


BEGALA: And that's where Scott Brown has been more centrist and Governor Romney has been more --

BORGER: But it's an issue about the role of government and that's how it -- that's how it started and if the Republicans had continued down that road and made it an issue about the role of government in your life, what should be insured, health care, health care mandates, all the rest, they might have been --

COOPER: I want to bring --

BORGER: -- getting somewhere.

COOPER: I want to bring in Joe Johns who is over at Newt Gingrich headquarters. Joe, you've been listening to this conversation. Where does Gingrich play into all this?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, I've got to tell you probably the most important thing you have to say is not only is this a strategy to win the state, not only is it a strategy to win delegates, but the Gingrich people more than once have told me that they think at the end of the day, Rick Santorum is going to collapse that conservative voters out there will not stay with him simply because of his votes in the United States Senate, thing like his support for Arlen Specter, his support for big labor, so that's all part of their strategy. Bottom line, Georgia, they expected to win big, they'd like to see 50 percent or higher. Then they go on to states like Alabama. They go on the states like Mississippi and Texas and hope for the best -- back to you.

COOPER: Jim Acosta is over at Santorum headquarters. Rick Santorum is calling for Newt Gingrich to get out, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Basically that's right, yes, Anderson. The Santorum campaign is saying the exact opposite of what Joe was just talking about a few moments ago. John Brabender, a senior strategist for the Santorum campaign came out a few moments ago, briefed reporters, basically saying if Newt Gingrich got out of this race, we would be able to go one-on-one with Mitt Romney and beat him in a lot of these upcoming contests. They say if Gingrich wasn't in the race in Michigan, they would have won Michigan. They point out that when they took on Mitt Romney one-on-one in the state of Missouri, they beat Mitt Romney in the state of Missouri.

They feel they can win in different parts of the country. Colorado out West, Minnesota in the Midwest, Iowa in the Midwest, they feel like because of that record they're the ones that should be the ones who stay in and that Newt Gingrich should drop out, not surprisingly, but that's the spin coming from the Santorum campaign tonight. One other thing I want to mention is that John Brabender pointed out yes they've had some organizational difficulties, but they feel like they're starting to rectify some of those things. He reminded all of us that they're sort of the MacGyver campaign. They just want to make sure by the end of tonight they're not the MacGyver campaign -- Anderson.

COOPER: OK. MacGyver got cancelled (INAUDIBLE) as I remember, but the Republican candidates are eager to prove they can win the crucial fall (ph) battleground of Ohio. Of course, the polls close at the bottom of the hour in the most watched race of the night. We will bring you results ahead.


BLITZER: Only nine minutes 43 seconds until the polls close in Ohio. That is a key political battleground, but we have news to report right now. As CNN projects a win, a win, take a look at this. Mitt Romney we project is the winner of the Virginia primary. Mitt Romney the former Massachusetts governor scores another victory tonight. Mitt Romney the winner in the Virginia primary.

He was running -- only Ron Paul managed to get on the ballot in Virginia. Santorum and Gingrich did not have enough strength to get the signatures necessary, but he did manage to win Virginia so that is a win for Virginia for Mitt Romney. A win as we said earlier for Newt Gingrich in his home state of Georgia. Let's take a look at actual votes coming in. Three percent of the vote in Virginia is now in, a relatively small number just gone up to four percent. Romney with 10,826 -- 57 percent, Ron Paul, 8,114 -- 43 percent, as I said only Ron Paul and Mitt Romney on the ballot in Virginia. Lets take a look at Vermont. The polls closed there about a half an hour or so ago, but we have not been able to make a projection yet. Only one percent of the vote in.

You see a tiny, tiny number of people who have actually been tallied, 70 votes for Mitt Romney, 49 for Rick Santorum, 38 percent to 27 percent, 24 percent for Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich only nine percent, but that's only one percent. In Georgia we projected a win for Newt Gingrich, but only one percent of the vote is actually in. You can see it right there, 39 percent for Gingrich, 31 percent for Santorum, 24 percent -- 24 percent for Romney, five percent for Ron Paul.

It's very, very early, but based on the exit poll information we got we projected a decisive win for Newt Gingrich -- a decisive win for Newt Gingrich in Georgia. Let's take a look at the map right now, and we will show you what we have seen so far, the changes unfolding. You can see the yellow is -- we are still waiting. That's Vermont. We have not been able to make a projection yet, because we don't have enough yet -- enough information. But we have projected Georgia going for Newt Gingrich. Virginia going for Mitt Romney.

You can see what is going on. The white states those are some of the 10 states that have elections or primaries or caucuses today. We will see what is going on coming up in a few minutes. Ohio, the polls will be closing there. We will see what we can do at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. That's in a few minutes from now. Let's go over to John King right now. So you've got a win for Gingrich in his home state, a win for Romney in Virginia. Big win in Virginia and important win in Virginia, it does underscore that he got on the ballot. Ron Paul got on the ballot, but Santorum and Gingrich didn't get on the ballot.

KING: One of the lessons we are going to see play out tonight Virginia is the first one of it, is that organization, money, resources do matter. Even if Rick Santorum wins Tennessee -- we will see what happens there -- he won't get all the delegates, because of some filing issues. No matter who wins Ohio, Rick Santorum couldn't get all the delegates, even if he swept the state because he missed some filing deadlines. And Wolf, the greatest gift tonight is right here in the state of Virginia.

One of the questions for Governor Romney has been can he can win in the South. South Carolina for Gingrich, Georgia for Gingrich, Virginia for Romney tonight, because there are two candidates on the ballot. Let's take a look at the earlier results coming in. Want to emphasize just five percent of the vote in, in the state of Virginia, but you see the lopsided early start. It lines up with the exit poll as well, and if you look a the state as it starts to fill in you see Romney red, both significantly in the major population centers and you see Roanoke, Richmond, the very populated Washington suburbs in Northern Virginia filling in Romney red, gives you a good sense he is going to put Virginia in his column, pick up a good batch of the delegates there. If you pull out to the map and look, Speaker Gingrich wins his home state of Georgia, but we need to find out is by how much? And when we fill it in the map a little bit later in the state, we will look to see by congressional district to see where the delegates go in the state of Georgia there. And Vermont is filled in for Romney, but as you noted, Wolf, this is just based on the early results. We haven't called the state of Vermont yet. You can see just a tiny smattering of the results.

I'm going to slide over to our exit poll analysis center as we wait for Ohio to come in just a couple of quick things I want to show you in the state of Ohio tonight. There has been a big question, who is in touch in this tough economy, this struggling recovery, who's most in touch especially with the blue-collar voters? I know our analysts were talking about who best understands Americans' problems. Well 32 percent said Rick Santorum in Ohio today. Twenty-three percent said Governor Romney, 19 percent Ron Paul, 18 percent Speaker Gingrich.

So a split there has edged Santorum among the candidates in who the Ohio Republicans think is best in touch with them. Here's an interesting one to look at here. What's the most important candidate quality? Well in Ohio, more than four in 10 said can defeat President Obama in November. Let's take a look at how those Republicans broke in the state of Ohio (INAUDIBLE) big for Governor Romney among those who say that is the most important thing. But Wolf, if you go through that electability, good for Governor Romney. If you go through some of these other issues, you see Senator Santorum very, very strong. We're going to be here counting the votes in Ohio for quite some time.

BLITZER: They close the polls in Ohio in about five minutes, less than five minutes from now. We'll be able to go there, take a look at the exit polls, see if we can make a projection. It looks like it's going to be very close. Stand by. We're going to Ohio right after this.


BLITZER: We are only about a minute away, one minute away from the bottom of the hour, and we are going to be able to get some results from arguably the most important Super Tuesday contest. Polling places across Ohio, the key battleground state, they close right at the bottom of the hour at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, less than a minute from now. Sixty-three delegates are at stake in Ohio. It's the second, second largest prize of the night.

It is a key battleground state. Remember, no Republican, no Republican has ever won the White House in November without first winning Ohio. Whoever wins Ohio will walk away with something very, very important, a proven victory in a state with a history of deciding presidential elections, Ohio. The candidates have been competing fiercely in Ohio. All of the polls showing it is very, very close in Ohio and the stakes clearly enormous right now. We have been watching Ohio throughout the day. We have correspondents throughout the state. In just a few seconds the polls will close in Ohio. Let's see what we can do, whether or not we will be able to make a projection or not, but guess what? Ohio, Ohio, Ohio, the key battleground state.

And as expected we cannot make a projection in Ohio right now. It is close. The exit poll results though are in. Let's share with you what the voters were telling us after they emerged from the polling booths in Ohio. These are the results from the CNN exit poll.

Forty percent for Mitt Romney, 36 percent for Rick Santorum, 12 percent for Newt Gingrich, percent for Ron Paul, and you see a four- point spread. These are early numbers in the exit poll. They certainly could change. But right now, these are the exit poll numbers. We are being totally transparent with you, a slight advantage right now for Mitt Romney, for Mitt Romney over Rick Santorum in the key battle ground, state of Ohio.

Let's go to Candy Crowley. She is covering the Romney campaign. They are in Boston right now. And Candy, this is a moment that I am sure that Mitt Romney would love to say, I won Ohio.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, that would be the major headline. And look, here are the three reasons they think they might do well there tonight. They are hoping for a victory and here are the signs pointing to that.

Number one, momentum going into this, he was the guy on the glide path. Rick Santorum had been up and Mitt Romney off of his Michigan and Arizona wins was moving ahead. That is number one.

Number two, they have also said, listen. We are the ones that have the folks who can get out the votes. We have the ground game. So they believe very much that that's on their side.

And number three. And they believe it will help Mitt Romney as we get further on down the line, they do expect this to go on. And that is usually when we ask that question, who do you think has the best chance to beat President Obama? Mitt Romney's name comes up in the exit polls and sometimes in the entrance polls. They believe it is more critical as we move closer and closer to finding a nominee.

So, those are the three things they think vote well for tonight, although they are extremely cautious here. You heard Mitt Romney earlier after he voted here in Massachusetts saying, gee, I don't know how we will do tonight. Nobody flat out predicted they are going to win, but they do think they have those things on their side, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. It would be a huge night for Romney, if in fact, he goes on to win in Ohio. We are not able to make a projection, but you saw the exit polls show a slight advantage for him over Rick Santorum.

Let's go to Santorum headquarters, at least on this night, Steubenville, Ohio. They are lowering sort of expectations, the Santorum campaign, aren't they, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are. You know, they are being cautious here as well, Wolf. I want to underscore what Candy was saying, and that is the Santorum campaign is not predicting a results one way or another. But, they are lowering expectations just too tough saying that if they come in second with the popular vote here in Ohio, that they are comfortable with that. They think that is coming away with a victory. Because they say Mitt Romney has outspent their campaign, something like 12 to 1. Those are numbers coming from the Santorum campaign.

And they also can see the point that they are going to walk away with fewer delegates than they could have, one in the state have not been for that paperwork snafu when we consider where we are standing right now here in Steubenville, Ohio. This is where the Santorum campaign is staging his primary night party. We are inside a district where they were not going to be able to win delegates, because of the paperwork snafu.

And so, they are conceding the point that yes, they have had some organizational problems in the state, but they say they are the campaign that is really built to take on Mitt Romney going down the road to heading towards the convention, and they were saying tonight, they were sounding very defiant, Wolf. They say Mitt Romney cannot get 1,144 to clinch the nomination so, he can say all he wants that he can't clinch the nomination. They are saying he can't either, and they are prepared to take the fight to the convention if need be, Wolf.

BLITZER: So far tonight, one wins for Romney, one win for Gingrich. Santorum still waiting for a win, and so is Ron Paul.

Let's go to Dana Bash right now. She is in the Cincinnati area, Hamilton County area, the board of elections there. This is very significant Republican part of Ohio. It is where John Boehner is from, if you will. Dana, set the scene for us. What's going on there? The polls have just closed.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is right, southwest Ohio is crucial, and this particular county, Hamilton County is going to be definitely one to watch it. Not only a swing county, it is the swing county in a swing state. In fact, it's one of the most important counties to watch in the general election, but of course, also for the Republican primary.

We just want to take you and our viewers to what we are going to be able to show you a little bit later as they actually are getting the votes in, the ballots are going to start coming in probably in about 45 minutes. But this is a room where they are going to be counting the ballots, they are going to be feeding some of it will be electronic, if you can look in here. There is a card reader, where they will get information that is going in there. They are going to zip it in. It is going to go to the computer. And a little bit later, Wolf, we are going to take you back to the office of the director of the board of elections, and we are going to try to get the real time vote results, as they are getting it here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, that is interesting, because it is going to be a close race in Ohio. It will be anxious to see what the information is they are getting over there.

Let's take a little dig deeper into Ohio. John King is here. He has been reviewing the exit poll information.

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is fascinating. We know, we have tight race and so, we look through and say, what are you looking for? We showed this bit of this earlier, 43 percent of Ohio Republicans say the biggest quality they want is can defeat Obama. And if you look at that, you see, well, Governor Romney has got a big edge, 56 percent to 27 percent over Rick Santorum. So, shouldn't he be winning the state? Well, that might be his edge and his advantage at the moment, but they went away on me, Wolf. Some are going to walk over here, we will reset that.

Senator Santorum wins about who's the most conservative? Senator Santorum wins among voters who say who has the strongest morale character matters. So, we have a tight race in Ohio.

So, what are you looking for in Ohio? Let's look at the map tonight. Dana just mentioned she is down here in Hamilton County. This is a critical area, a strong Republican establishment town that Governor Romney needs to do well down in Hamilton County in the areas right here around Cincinnati.

I would argue Governor Romney needs to also do well here. The city of Columbus tends to lean democratic. But at suburban area around Columbus and Portland, Governor Romney tends the do well amongst suburban upscale suburban voters.

Same thing in Cleveland, the city of South Cleveland is democratic, but if you get out to the suburbs around Cleveland, a lot of Republican voters, very important for Governor Romney.

So, what about Senator Santorum? I'm going to use yellow for Senator Santorum. Youngstown, Akron, Senator Santorum remember, his first house district was down here. That's outside of Pittsburgh in this area here bordering Pennsylvania, critical Toledo as well. Why? He has targeted blue collar voters saying he understand them in this tough economy. He is the better candidate for them.

I want to do a history lesson here and go back in time. You might say why is he doing this? I'm going to go back to the Democratic primary. The Democratic primary in 2008, I want to make this comparison for you. You see Hillary Clinton winning a lot of these smaller counties, winning where I just mentioned. Blue collars voters Youngstown, blue collar voters Akron, blue collar voters Toledo.

Barack Obama's in suburban Cincinnati, suburban Columbus, and Columbus, in the Cleveland areas as well, African-American population for the president. Then Senator Obama, been all throughout the suburbs.

So, I would say to you tonight that in terms of the turnout, you have very much the same dynamic. More upscale suburban voters, they were critical for Barack Obama. They are critical for Mitt Romney. And the blue collar voters, they were huge for Hillary Clinton and they are huge tonight for Senator Santorum -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right, John. We got a lot of information to digest, and certainly so far tonight, Newt Gingrich wins Georgia and Mitt Romney winning Virginia. But guess what? We have more information to report to you right now.

A second win for Mitt Romney on the Super Tuesday. Take a look at this. We project Mitt Romney will win the state of Vermont in New England. He is from Massachusetts. It was expected. We make this projection based on the exit poll information we have received as well as some of the actual numbers coming in.

Mitt Romney, the winner in Vermont. His second win of the night. He also won, we project in Virginia. Newt Gingrich wins in Georgia. Let's take a look at the map and we will show you what is going on right now.

You could see what's going on. Wins for Mitt Romney in Vermont and Virginia, and you see the win for Newt Gingrich in Georgia. We are still waiting for Ohio. The polls in Ohio have closed there, but we have not been able to make a projection.

We have other states closing at the top of the hour. At 8:00, Massachusetts closing, Oklahoma closes, and Tennessee closes. That is right at the top of the hour. We will see if we can make any projections in those three states, but it is a significant development. Another win - a win is a win. Mitt Romney has two wins so far tonight.

So it is a significant development. It was fully expected, but Anderson Cooper, I suspect that the Mitt Romney pollsters, pretty happy because they like winning those states.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Well, a win is a win. They are happy about the new data, no doubt about it. For you guys, what is important, Ohio?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Ohio and delegate count though, because you can't separate the two. If you are inside of a presidential campaign at this point, you are looking more at the total delegates than what states did you win, because that is what it comes down to, and as we started to talk about attrition, and if you are Mitt Romney that is how you grind the opponents out of the race by picking up so many delegates that even in a state that you narrowly lost that it is impossible for anybody else to get there.

COOPER: Ohio though, has been a bellwether state for GOP candidates?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Always. And again, this is part of Romney's case that he has to make for the likability case. He has won Florida. He is now won Virginia. If he wins Ohio, he's won and Michigan. He wins Arizona. These are all important states in the general election against Barack Obama where he is demonstrating strength, where he is demonstrating that if you can bring the conservatives along with the established Republicans, you can put together a campaign. But, Ari is right, by the way, about the delegate count. The Romney people are right now is watching Massachusetts because if Santorum falls under 15 percent there, he gets zero delegates even though it is proportional. Georgia, if Santorum falls under 20 percent, zero delegates there even though it is proportional. So, we have to watch the line.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Right. Ohio clearly matters the most for the reasons that Alex and Ari state. That is why it is so instructive that the chart that Erin Burnett showed about the spending of team Romney and team Santorum is a multiple factor of four to five to one and maybe more, Santorum, just unable so far to marshal the resources. He knew that was the most important state for him certainly, and he didn't, and was not able to compete on the dollars. And that is what it is.

COOPER: They have been both targeting the blue collar workers - I mean has Romney been able to make inroads in that? Because he is not making a relatable argument, he is making the argument that he knows the economy.

FLEISCHER: Maybe. Maybe.

BEGALA: And in Michigan his own state.

COOPER: Hang on, I'm sorry. And I am told that Ron Paul may be speaking.

Wolf, let's go to you.

BLITZER: Ron Paul is getting ready to speak. He is speaking right now at a caucus in North Dakota, in Fargo North Dakota. But I want to check in with Jim Spellman, our reporter who is on the scene for us.

Jim, set the scene for us, and then I want to hear from Ron Paul.

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure, Wolf. There is a couplet a least 2,000 people here to gather to listen to Ron Paul. And as they have been voting, I have seen by far more voters here at this ten district location than any other candidate by far.

Let's take a listen, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ron Paul. The polls in North Dakota, they close at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

SPELLMAN: That is right, Wolf.

PAUL: ... next year the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve by repealing the Federal Reserve Act.


AUDIENCE: End the Fed! End the Fed! End the Fed! End the Fed! End the Fed! End the Fed! End the Fed!

PAUL: But a lot has happened in the last four years. These problems have been going on for a long time. It'd be nice if we could blame one person or one administration, but it's been going on a long time, so -- so many young people here, I think you're realizing you're getting a bad rap for what you're inheriting. You'd like a much better deal. And the deal -- the better deal can be found in less government and only sending people to Washington who have actually read the Constitution and will obey the Constitution and take their oath of office seriously...


... which would be -- which would do so many wonderful things for us. Take, for instance, if you're tired of the wars -- I hope you're sick and tired of the wars that we're involved in...


... what if we had the return to the Constitution. The founders made sure in the document in the Constitution that the wars would only occur not by the executive branch, but only by the people, through their representatives in Congress. That's the way all wars should be declared. If necessary, they should be declared, won, and get them over with, and come home. That's the way it was supposed to be done.


But since -- since World War II, we have gone to war without a declaration. And for that reason, we essentially have not won one of those wars. It has added a lot of tragedy.

PAUL: Just in these past 10 years, these wars that we're fighting in the Middle East, over 8,500 Americans have died, 44,000 have come back with serious injuries -- and amputations and all kinds of problems -- hundreds of thousands looking for help because of post- traumatic stress syndrome, at the same time, economically it's been very damaging. It has added $4 trillion to our national debt. That is what you're inheriting. This is the reason why it is so important, if you're talking about peace and prosperity, you have to change the Constitution and have a lot less war and make a lot more sincere effort to promote the cause of peace.


But this has been going on for a long time, and both administrations have been doing this, and this is the reason that the message of liberty actually brings people together, because individuals see that the parties aren't doing a very good job. You elect one party to cut the spending; they raise the debt and the spending, as well. Another party is supposed to do the job; they go in and nothing changes.

So if you look at the candidates today, there is very little difference, except for one.


The rest -- the rest of the candidates support the status quo. Foreign policies never change. Monetary policy doesn't change. There's no challenge to the Federal Reserve system. And most of all, there's no -- no desire to protect personal liberty, personal privacy, protect us from the intrusiveness of the federal government, to protect your right to use -- to use the Internet.

These are the kinds of things that are so important to so many people. And, unfortunately, that is not offered. I believe it is the offering up of a program that -- that emphasizes personal liberty, the Constitution, sound monetary policy, and a sensible foreign policy is the reason the momentum is building and the reason why we're getting such a great reception here in North Dakota.

BLITZER: Ron Paul making the case to caucus goers in Fargo, North Dakota. There is a very large caucus in Fargo, North Dakota. He is going through his major points why he believes he should be the next president of the United States.

We will continue to monitor Ron Paul's address. Later in the evening, we will hear from other candidates as well.

Let's take a look at close look at Ohio right now. The polls closed in Ohio a few moments ago. But we have got about one percent of the vote in, in Ohio and so far, very, very early, and Mitt Romney has a lead. These are official votes, 39 percent to 37 percent for Rick Santorum. But look at how small the numbers are so far, 1,837 for Mitt Romney; 1,767 for Rick Santorum. He is only ahead by 70 votes right now. So, we will see what happens. But only one percent of the vote is in, 16 percent for Newt Gingrich, seven percent for Ron Paul.

We are taking a closer look at Ohio. Ohio is a key battleground politically. It is a major bonanza for whoever wins Ohio tonight. We saw the exit polls earlier, John King, exit polls earlier suggesting a slight advantage for Mitt Romney in Ohio and not long ago that the polls in Ohio showed that Santorum was ahead, but Mitt Romney has been spending is PAC, his super PAC, the pro-Romney super PAC, as well as his own campaign and ton of money in Ohio trying to do the Santorum what they successfully did to Gingrich in Iowa.

KING: And you mentioned, it was not long ago when Santorum was well ahead. When remember on this night when Rick Santorum won in Missouri, won in Minnesota, won out in Colorado, where was Newt Gingrich? He was in Ohio that night. That supposed to be critical to his Super Tuesday. What happened? Gingrich fell back and he won his home state tonight.

So, you see, Gingrich now has two states victory, South Carolina and Georgia. The question is can he get another one tonight? We are just listening to Congressman Ron Paul. What's missing from the map?

As you look. By the end of tonight, nearly half of the states will have voted. What's missing? Ron Paul does not have a win yet. Yes, he is getting delegates but he is in third place in the delegates chase and no wins yet. You cannot win the nomination, Wolf, without a win. So, what do we have happening so far? You just mentioned Ohio. It is colored Romney red at the moment, but when you zoom into the state, you see we only have one percent of the vote in, Governor Romney is leading, but that is pretty small lead, 39 percent to 37 percent which is a little bit of the votes in. And remember earlier, I was talking about how key the Cleveland suburbs are. Well, Lake County, very important to Governor Romney. That's where he is leading at the moment. But again, very small number of votes in, very small percentage of the votes in, a three percent vote lead for Governor Romney there. These blue collar votes, as we know will be the key to Senator Santorum, again, a very narrow edge right there. That does not even count as one percent of the vote.

So, as you watch the vote come in Ohio, this is the big battle ground. And you come out to the big picture. Governor Romney has won ten states. If you look them on this map, 11 are filled in Romney red, that's because Ohio is filled in red right now because he is leading. And Governor Romney has ten states at the moment coming into the night. He would like to add Ohio. He believes he can add Idaho. He can see as a chance in North Dakota. And the question is can he get Tennessee? There is no question we will end tonight with Governor Romney still winning more states. Where will Oklahoma go? Again, Gingrich was ahead here about a month ago, Santorum was ahead late in the polls there. Tennessee is a battle ground. We fully expect Massachusetts to become a Romney state.

BLITZER: Let's take a look at Georgia right now because that is the biggest delegate prize of the night. Georgia is of course, we project will go to Newt Gingrich. But it's a -- how is it filling in right now? We only have three percent of the overall vote in.

KING: At the moment, you see almost all Gingrich. You see a little bit of Santorum. This has been typical in a lot of states. You see the purple fill-in, a tiny, tiny county, but you watch there. Alex mentioned earlier, you need the 20 percent threshold and then the proportionality kicks in and we can show you a bit later in if this matter, as the states start to fill in. You see Mitt Romney winning one tiny county over here, a very tiny county and he is winning it only by a handful of votes, right there.

But as you watch it fill in, Newt Gingrich will win the state without a doubt. Then the question comes, how high is his vote count, and where is the vote count, because the delegates are apportioned based on the districts. We can show that a bit later as we get more of this vote. We will know more about whether this is the biggest basket of delegates in the state of Georgia tonight.

BLITZER: Yes. Hold on Missouri. We just want to tell our viewers. This is what we project now. The order of finished in Georgia, you could see we project Gingrich wins, Romney second, Santorum third, Ron Paul fourth. I guess it will depend on the percentages as far as the delegate distribution is concerned.

KING: How high is the percentage of the vote and do you have viability, and you have to get over that threshold and then do you win by districts as you apportion it out. So we need a lot more vote. We have three percent of the vote counted in Georgia. A lot more vote before we can start thinking about who will get for delegates. No question, Newt Gingrich will get the more than anyone else. We don't know beyond that. We have to break it down, Wolf. A lot of vote counting in Georgia, a lot of the vote counting in Ohio and beyond.

BLITZER: Three more states, John, getting ready to close at the top of the hour, and will we be able to make a projection in Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Tennessee?

Stand by. You are watching our election coverage from the CNN election center. Come back with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Right now, we're watching a close fight between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum for the critical battleground of Ohio.

COOPER: And polls are about to close in four more states in Super Tuesday's marathon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The night of Republican Campaign blood busters. Ten states and hundreds of delegates are on the line at the same time.

ROMNEY: This time, we have to get the choice right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will this night bring any clarity to the most unpredictable race in memory?

SANTORUM: It's an episode of survival. We just need to stay on the island and not get voted off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Polls about to close in Massachusetts, Tennessee and Oklahoma. It's America's choice and it's Super Tuesday.

Mitt Romney is counting on a win in his home state of Massachusetts.

ROMNEY: I need Republicans to get out and vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But in this south and west, he may be vulnerable to Rick Santorum's one-two punch.

SANTORUM: We feel really good about Tennessee. We feel great about Oklahoma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Romney-Santorum showdown is intense as this night wears down.

SANTORUM: There's only a choice between twiddle dumb and twiddle do.

ROMNEY: I will not embarrass you in the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will any candidate emerge as the big Super Tuesday winner or loser? Republicans are choosing. The world is watching and nothing in this election compares to what's happening right now.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world, the most watched Super Tuesday contest in Ohio, still as of this moment up in the air.

Now, we're standing by for the first results from three more states, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Massachusetts. Polls close there right at the top of the hour in a few minutes. A total of 133 delegates are at stake in those three states.

CNN's exclusive ballot and caucus cameras are in place across the country to take you inside the voting and bring you the results before anyone else. Our anchors and correspondents are out in full force for our Super Tuesday coverage including Candy Crowley and Jim Acosta.

Let's go to Candy first over at Mitt Romney headquarters in Massachusetts -- Candy.

CROWLEY: You know, Wolf. Massachusetts, obviously, a second home, at least, we just went to one of Mitt Romney's home states in Michigan. They're expecting a big win here in Massachusetts when the polls close. Big enough that the Democrats, the Democratic Party in Massachusetts was in fact kind of using it as a get out the vote for President Obama, trying to get more vote others to come in the democratic primary than come in the Republican primary. No real contest here as to the result for Romney, but they're just looking at those overall numbers - Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Candy. Let's go to Santorum headquarters in Ohio where right now, Jim Acosta is standing by now -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Wolf, Rick Santorum was once up by double digits in this state. Now, his campaign is starting to lower expectations just a touch saying a second place finish in Ohio would be just fine but they are not hang their heads here in Ohio, they are sounding defiant -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jim, Thank you.

Anderson Cooper, of course, is keeping a score for all of us -- Anderson.

COOPER: That's right, Wolf. Tonight's an exciting night throughout the night. We are going to check our Super Tuesday scoreboard. Fill part, CNN has projected two wins for Mitt Romney, Virginia and Vermont. No real surprises there. One wins for Newt Gingrich in Georgia, again, not a huge surprise. No wins yet for Rick Santorum or for Ron Paul. But that could change at the top of the hour as more results come in. We are going to keep you updated with our virtual convention. Tom Foreman showing us how the battle for delegates tonight could affect the GOP convention this summer as we count down the next poll closings, as I said at the top of the hour. Let's check in with Erin Burnett -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST, OUT FRONT: All right. Well, Anderson. We are talking about Ohio and how crucial Ohio is going to be. Take a look at the state of Ohio. This has been a comeback kid state. You look at unemployment, this is December. That's the best you can get for the state level.

There are only two parts of Ohio that are actually worse than the national average. You have Columbus, for example, only at seven percent. That's significantly better. And when you look at Ohio, some of the best to worse for the Ohio economy, we had unemployment rate in Ohio, Anderson, of 10.6 percent at the peak. It is now only 7.9. That is one of the most improved and that's a big part of the story tonight.

COOPER: All right. And we are obviously going to be watching that. Stay closely throughout the night. John King, as we count down to the next poll closings, also keeping close watch on the battle for Ohio -- John.

KING: It has and let's takes a look. First, let's look ahead on what we're waiting for the next hour. Two very important states, the state of Tennessee. One thing we're looking for, senator Santorum needs to win the state of Tennessee tonight. Yes, is the answer. Seventy one percent say yes. So, white evangelical born again Christian and that has been a source of strength for Senator Santorum. We will watch that in Tennessee.

Another state coming up, Oklahoma, almost an identical number. One of the remarkable things about tonight with 10 states voting all across the country, different states have different electorates. But evangelicals in Tennessee, very important, 72 percent of those in Tennessee say -- in Oklahoma, excuse me, say they're born again evangelicals. So, 72 percent in Tennessee and Oklahoma. We will watch if they go for senator Santorum.

Now, Ohio, battleground state. We are going to count the votes here. It's an interesting question. Your opinion of the tea party, well, nearly six in 10 say they supported the tea party as they voted in Ohio today. How did they break down by the candidates? Well, she doesn't want to work at the moment. So, we will just move on over here.

As we look at the state right now, I want to show you the vote results coming in Ohio. Because a little while ago, it was colored red for Romney, now, a slight edge for senator Santorum, emphasis on slight there fewer than 300 votes, just one percent of the vote in. But if this state goes in, Cleveland suburbs critical to Romney. The Cincinnati here is critical to Romney. Toledo, Akron, Youngstown, blue collar areas, absolutely critical, Wolf, to Senator Santorum as he hopes, he hopes, he hopes to keep Romney from getting that Ohio victory.

BLITZER: Yes. He wants to get on the scoreboard tonight. Santorum so far, Romney is on the scoreboard. Gingrich is on the scoreboard. Santorum is not on the scoreboard. Ron Paul, still waiting for his first win in a primary or caucus.

But three states, getting ready to close in three states. We're watching it very, very closely. We will watch Tennessee. We are going to watch Oklahoma. We are going to watch Massachusetts. Get ready for this.

Another win for win for Mitt Romney. Look at this. It's on the state of Massachusetts.