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Super Tuesday Coverage; Battle for Ohio

Aired March 6, 2012 - 23:59   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. This is what we know right now. Let me update our viewers on what's going on. I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center.

You can see 10 states were voting tonight and we have the results in most of these states right now. But let's go to Ohio first. In Ohio right now, 93 percent of the vote is now in. Mitt Romney slightly ahead of Rick Santorum. But it's going to be difficult for Rick Santorum to catch up by all accounts. Thirty-eight percent for Romney, 37 percent for Santorum.

It's a significant lead right now. We'll see what's going on.

Let's take a look and see what happened in Oklahoma. Earlier in the night 99 percent of the vote is in. Rick Santorum wins in Oklahoma with 34 percent. Romney coming in second, 28 percent. Gingrich, third, 27 percent, Ron Paul significantly behind with only 10 percent.

Tennessee, another important win for Rick Santorum tonight, 37 percent going for Santorum, 28 percent for Romney, 24 percent for Gingrich, only 9 percent for Ron Paul.

Let's take a look at Alaska though. Within the past few seconds the caucuses were winding down in Alaska. There's no votes officially counted yet in Alaska. We're going to be update you right now -- we're going to be updating you throughout the next hour on what's going on in Alaska, 24 delegates at stake in Alaska.

You get a sense of what's going on, the winners and the losers.

Let's show you what we know right now. Look at this. Ten states, Romney so far has won four. In Virginia, Vermont, Massachusetts and Idaho. Those are all Romney wins. Rick Santorum is having a pretty good night as well. He's got three major wins. Tennessee, North Dakota and Oklahoma. Newt Gingrich won his home state of Georgia. It's the largest delegate state of the night, 76 delegates. Newt Gingrich win in Georgia.

But we still have three states that are outstanding right now. Ohio right now, Alaska -- we're waiting for two states, I should say. Idaho we projected a win for Mitt Romney as well. We're still waiting for Ohio and for Alaska.

We've been following all of this, what's going on, and you know what? A lot of folks are saying there could be some sort of deadlock, open convention in Tampa at the end of the summer when the Republican Party meets. Remember, you need 1,144 delegates to secure the nomination.

CNN's Tom Foreman is taking us on a virtual convention tour right now.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All evening as we have watched the trends in voting from right here on our virtual convention floor, we have been tracking what that will mean to the array of delegates at the actual convention in Tampa to Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

So now let's take a look at the latest and we'll take our camera up high so you can really see what is happening here. As we've said calculating the exact allocation of delegates is difficult so soon with the complex formulas the states use, but Newt Gingrich had a good start tonight winning Georgia. We're showing his new delegates over there on the left. Ron Paul grabbing a few, as you can see, on the right.

The war, however, is happening in those two middle sections. Rick Santorum with his wins in Tennessee, Oklahoma, North Dakota, has been trying to close the gap on Mitt Romney, picking up dozens of new delegates. He'll get more before the counting is done, but here is the problem. Mitt Romney, by taking Massachusetts, Vermont, Idaho and Virginia, where Santorum and Gingrich were not even on the ballot, is still expanding his lead.

Look at that. We said he'd grabbed a whole block of seats earlier. Now he has some more.

So the picture of the convention floor is growing clearer but it's far from conclusive and let's not for get there are still some whopping prizes coming up in primaries down the road, including California and Texas with well over 300 delegates between them. That means even though each one of these candidates would love to have the balloons dropping for him on nomination night, even with these Super Tuesday results, they will have to keep waiting and watching to see if someone can truly break free and become the prohibitive favorite.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, with the virtual convention, Florida virtual balloons, as well.

Let's show you what's going on in Ohio right now. This is the very latest information that we're getting. Let's show our viewers, 93 percent of the vote is in. Romney's lead growing a little bit, 7,264 votes ahead of Rick Santorum, 38 percent to 37 percent. Let's be specific, 436,278 votes for Romney, 429,014 votes for Santorum. Gingrich and Paul significantly behind right now.

Seven percent of the vote is still outstanding. It's going to be difficult, though, for Santorum, John King, to make up that 7400 vote difference if you take a look at where the outstanding votes remained.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And again, 93 percent statewide as you said. You have the lead out there. You look a lot of purple filled in on the map. Here's one of the urban areas where Senator Santorum has come back, Lucas County there, Toledo, but winning just barely. Just barely in that county there. Otherwise if you look at the major population centers, the big dots and where the big cities are, the biggest thing for Governor Romney tonight he will be thanking Senator Portman and the voters at Hamilton County, Cincinnati. Senator Portman is from this area. He's a big support of Governor Romney.

A huge, huge 20-point win in Hamilton County. Those votes more than the statewide cushion right now. You move up again into the central part of the state. Franklin County here. Again, a win for Romney and the suburbs especially around Columbus. A smaller margin there, but key votes for Governor Romney there. And this is -- where there's still some vote outstanding, Wolf. This is why I see it as impossible for Santorum. I say that to make up the math because Cuyahoga County tonight, Cleveland and the suburbs around it, huge again, 18-point lead in that county alone.

And as the more votes come in we expect Governor Romney to only pad that lead. We certainly don't expect Senator Santorum, excuse me, there to make it up there.

Romney also winning in the blue-collar areas of Youngstown and Akron. As we've seen in some other states, Senator Santorum winning big in smaller rural counties by big margins, but you see a smaller percentage of votes there and all these counties are in. If you go through here, 100 percent of the vote in, 100 percent of the vote in, 100 percent of the vote in, 100 percent of the vote in. I can go on and on and on as you go through. So a sweeping win for Senator Santorum in the rural counties of Ohio, but these big victories by Governor Romney by good health margins in the cities and the suburbs around them have him ahead, Wolf.

That's not a huge win. It's not a huge win. But this is what this is all about. Romney will get the most delegates out of Ohio no matter what happens, because Senator Santorum didn't qualify for all of them. Some organizational deficiencies. This is what this is about. Looking at the map going forward, Governor Romney desperately wants this to be Romney red coming out of Super Tuesday. If it is the case, he will have 13 wins on his side, seven for Senator Santorum, two for Speaker Gingrich.

A lot of conversations why isn't the margin bigger, you're spending all that money on television? Why can't you win in Tennessee? Prove yourself in the south. There will be a lot of question marks. A lot of question marks, a lot of talk about money, money, money. However, winning. Winning. Winning matters in politics. It gets you some momentum. The problem going forward, you mentioned Alabama, Mississippi among the contests next week, you don't see -- don't consider Florida, a deep southern state, and Speaker Gingrich, Senator Santorum tend to be favored there.

If you look at this part of the country, you can see, just look at home, you can see the colors. You view this is more Romney country. Out here is where Santorum has been doing well. The west has been Romney country. As we go forward, Wolf, a lot of question marks but again, the delegate math starts to add up in Governor Romney's favor. If he can hold Ohio tonight, both from a delegate perspective and a psychological perspective, this was the big battleground tonight. It's a narrow lead tonight, but winning counts. BLITZER: You think -- you think if Santorum would have spent more money in Ohio because Romney spent a ton of money in Ohio, obviously it's paying off for him. If Santorum would have spent some money there, some significant money, it would have made a difference in the some of these big media markets, for example? It's expensive running in Ohio, as you know.

KING: Let's show you -- I want to come back, that popped up on me a little bit, but I want to show you the TV ad counts by popping this up here, popping this down, and then just bringing us back to the state of Ohio. You see the pie charts? This is the Romney color right here. The Romney color is the darker red. You see the overwhelmingly, overwhelmingly outspent everybody. The purple is Santorum or the pro-Santorum super PAC.

So if you see it right there, there's no question, there's no question, the money matters. Let me close this down and come back to the state. Again, major TV market. Major TV market. Major TV market. It's the only place where you have the TV market that Santorum is carrying is Toledo. Now these people all watch TV, don't get me wrong on these other markets. But in the central areas where people are being inundated, would it have made a difference? That's one of the big question marks for the Santorum campaign.

They were late to organize, they were late to raise money. And so you ask them the question, why not spend a little bit more in Ohio? Might that have made the difference? Their answer most likely would be we still have much less resources. A lot of states still to fight on that they have to be more careful with their resources.

These states are expensive.


KING: If you're going to start getting competitive on television here, some money doesn't do it for you. If you're going to get in, you've got to get in. And that gets expensive especially when you've got a long haul to go.

BLITZER: Sort of reminds me of Ohio 2004 when John Kerry lost Ohio barely. He had millions of dollars left over of campaign money, didn't use it in Ohio. He might have been president of the United States back in 2004 if he would have spent more a little bit more money in Ohio. He left the election with cash on hand. Look at how close it was in Ohio in 2004.

KING: Yes.

BLITZER: He didn't spend the millions that he had -- you remember that, John.

KING: Oh, they pulled the money out. That was a huge debate within the Kerry campaign about pulling out of Ohio in the final weeks. They spent the money, a lot of that money in a place called Florida. Didn't work out. They spent it in some other places as well. But yes, Ohio, in a close election, Ohio is always a central battleground and a lot of people go back to 2004. I know our Democrats on the other side of the room would look at 51-49 and think, maybe if we left a little money in there.


KING: Things might have been different.

BLITZER: I don't know why he needed all that -- those millions after the election. He should have spent it all at that time. But that's historians can reassess what's going on at that point.

All right, we're going to take a much closer look at Ohio. We're standing by. New information coming in. What happens if Romney wins Ohio, gets the delegate vote there, where do we go from here? A lot more coming up.

Also we're waiting for the results from Alaska. Ron Paul so far has not won one state. Can he win in Alaska?

We're also learning Sarah Palin has now just disclosed who she voted for today in Alaska. We'll share that information with you as well. Stand by. Our coverage from the CNN Election Center will continue.


BLITZER: In addition to the Republican race for the nomination for the White House, there's a key congressional election in Ohio as well. In the Cleveland area. Take a look at this. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the long-time Democrat from the 9th congressional district in Ohio, loses to Congressman Marcy Kaptur in a runoff election. They were redistricting that district. Ohio lost a seat, as a result, Kucinich loses his seat in Congress. Marcy Kaptur keeps her seat in Congress. You can see the results here, 56 percent going for Marcy Kaptur to 40 percent for Dennis Kucinich. Himself a former Democratic presidential candidate.

Eighty-five percent of the vote is in. But we projected now that Marcy Kaptur will win that key congressional district race. Dennis Kucinich no longer going to be a member of the House of Representatives.

We're watching all the news for you here at the CNN Election Center. Let's go to Anderson for more -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's talk to our contributors a little bit. If you look at the vote in Ohio, I mean, can you call Newt Gingrich a spoiler for Rick Santorum?

ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: I think if you look at the exit poll and the way it's shaped up there's an argument to be made there. I find it fascinating as well that 6900 people cast votes for Rick Perry and 5900 cast votes for Jon Huntsman. You've got a 7,000 vote gap between Romney and Santorum now. Who's to say how those would spoil out? But between Santorum and Gingrich, the Santorum people tonight have been saying that Gingrich held them back. They could have gotten some of Gingrich's votes. And I think that yes, that's --


COOPER: I suppose the Gingrich people say that Santorum is a spoiler for Gingrich but --

ERICKSON: Yes. Exactly. Yes. Pretty much so. But you know, you go to the races with the fields you have. And Gingrich shows no signs of getting out. As long as this super PAC money holds up I guess he can stay in. But I don't see a path to victory for Newt Gingrich at all winning just two states.

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, and I think, also for Ron Paul, it really is time for him to drop out.


FLEISCHER: I understand he's leading a movement, leading a cause. But after 20 states and no victories, and even if he takes Alaska, he's a candidate for president? If you can't win, why are you staying in? And that's going to be Newt's story soon, too.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Why would you say that -- why wouldn't you say that about Newt?

FLEISCHER: Newt -- on March 13, is Alabama and Mississippi primaries. That's next Tuesday. I think if he doesn't win those, he's going to have to face that same question. It's time.

COOPER: You thought Ron Paul had a chance in North Dakota?

FLEISCHER: I did. That was the big surprise to me. North Dakota and Alaska I thought he had a chance. But let's say he even took those two. He can't win the presidency. He's running for president. I understand about wanting to get -- exposure for his ideas. He's had that. I don't know why he's staying in other than exposure.

ERICKSON: You know, I guess my question on the Ron Paul strategy is why not make a go at it in Virginia? Look at the protest vote there for Romney tonight, to Ron Paul, and he wrote off Virginia. He could have won a sizable state in Virginia tonight, capitalizing on the non- Romney vote there and he didn't do it. I've got no idea what his campaign strategy is. I don't know that his campaign really knows what his campaign strategy is at this point. He's winning no states. The sound and fury of the Ron Paul supporters has gotten me nothing --

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: But remember, it's not about states anymore, it's about winning delegates.

ERICKSON: That's true.

BRAZILE: If you're not, you know, getting the threshold, if you're not getting 15, 20, 25 percent, then you're not picking up delegates so Ron Paul's problem is that if he's not winning states and he's not winning delegates then the next question is what is he doing in the race? FLEISCHER: You know, Erick and Hilary --

ROSEN: The only spoken thing tonight, though --

FLEISCHER: Go ahead. Go ahead, Hilary.

ROSEN: -- about this race is that it is - it is being sustained on super PAC money. Not on voter's money. And that is something that is terribly frightening when you think about the next eight months and what that means for a general election. Because, you know, you look at Newt Gingrich. He's in there because of super PAC money. Rick Santorum the same thing. Mitt Romney, spending, you know, four to one. At least actually Mitt Romney is raising some individual contributions.

I'm frightened literally for the future of elections in this country when you can have primaries and campaigns completely funded by super PACs that have nothing to do with voter intent.

FLEISCHER: No, I want to just go back to something about Hilary and Erick interestingly has picked up on. You saw -- talking about a protest vote against Mitt Romney in Virginia. Well, I just saw the "Politico" report in Oklahoma which has a Democratic primary today.


FLEISCHER: Barack Obama got 57 percent of the vote, 43 percent of Democrats in Oklahoma voted for other candidates for president in the Democratic primary. So that's why I think Virginia really isn't the factor when you say anti-Romney vote and neither is Oklahoma.

ROSEN: Here's the --

FLEISCHER: These things happen when nobody turns out to vote.

ROSEN: Here's the Romney thing, and get ready, Ari, I'm going to say something nice about Mitt Romney, OK? Ready? The thing about Mitt Romney is, as ugly as these wins have been and every time that somebody else comes on, he does keep winning. And Democrats would do well to remember that in the fall. That this is a guy who you don't think is running a very good campaign because intuitively he doesn't seem to have the smoothness of a political candidate, but he's got a good organization, he's got a lot of heat behind it. And this is going to be a very tough election.

COOPER: Gloria or David, do you think he is getting -- Mitt Romney is getting better as a candidate? I mean are -- is this getting better?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: In the last week maybe because he hasn't made so many gaffes. But the problem for Mitt Romney and it's reflected in these -- in these exit polls tonight is that while people think he might be electable against Barack Obama, when you ask them who best understands my problems, which is really important question that you ask in a presidential campaign, he's beaten by Rick Santorum in Ohio and in Tennessee, for example. So Mitt Romney has a problem. Now the good thing for Mitt Romney if he becomes the nominee is that Barack Obama is not considered the warmest candidate either and so, you know, they could both have that same kind of a deficit. And also, you know, to -- yes, I said Barack Obama, right? Ari, Barack Obama is not considered the warmest candidate. Also to Hilary's point on super PACs, the beneficiary of super PACs, ironically, and whoever thought it was going to be this, could be Barack Obama.

COOPER: We've got to go to take a quick break. We're still awaiting results in Ohio. We'll be right back. Our coverage continues.


BLITZER: Mitt Romney's lead in Ohio over Rick Santorum, guess what? It's expanding right now. Ninety-five percent of the vote in, and Romney is ahead of Santorum by 10,661 votes. That's -- as I said with 95 percent of the vote in, 38 percent to 37 percent. Gingrich and Paul way, way behind. Only 5 percent of the vote left outstanding.

It's going to be really, really difficult if not impossible for Rick Santorum to come back and overtake that 10,661 vote lead that Romney has right now.

John King is here to explain what's going on. We have not made a projection, CNN. But it's looking like it's going to be really hard if not impossible for Santorum to make up those 10,000 votes.

KING: Yes, it is. And let's show you why. We told you earlier when we were counting in Hamilton County, we had some exclusive results way before they got to 100, we've had some numbers from Dana Bash that had Governor Romney come back and actually take the lead. You see that county, it's a huge cushion, a huge cushion for Mitt Romney.

Let's go from the southwest corner of the state up to the northeast corner of the state, Cuyahoga County where Cleveland is. Now I want to show you this, at 95 percent, now these numbers have actually meshed up. We had these numbers just before the break. They hadn't been updated on our board yet. So what was the difference? The earlier numbers right before the break, Romney was leading in Cuyahoga County by 11,609 votes.

This math right here, these new numbers, 16,029 votes. So a net gain of 4400 votes in Cuyahoga County. Ninety-nine percent of the vote now in there. If you pull this out, go back to the statewide map, at 96 percent now, Wolf, this is where you see this lead, it is now -- that's 12,040 votes. So I'm going to blank those other numbers so they don't confuse people. A 12,040 vote lead for Governor Romney. Then you look at the map at 96 percent. You say, what's left, what's out there? Well, some of the votes are going to come from Cuyahoga where Romney has that big lead. If you start just looking around the area, in the Romney areas, 100 percent, 100 percent, 100 percent. So most of the vote count is in there. You come into the rural part --


BLITZER: All right. Take a look, because we just got a little bit more vote right now, as we say, 96 percent of the vote is in. You say 12,000 votes, 12,040 votes. Where is that 4 percent outstanding where potentially there could be a change? It doesn't look like that 4 percent is going to be able to overcome that significant 12,000 vote advantage for Romney over Santorum.

KING: Very hard. I say impossible. Again, we're being very careful officially at CNN to make it up. When you start looking around, 100 percent of the vote is in here. Hundred percent is in just about everywhere. If you click around, every now and then you will find a small county where you're a little below 100. But we're getting to the point now where they're very hard to find. And so sometimes you're looking at -- we do know this. As we have 96 percent, we do know there are some provisional ballots and mail ballots, and so we need to count those.

Are there enough to make up that gap? The argument is unlikely. But if you look around the state right now and you're trying to find places, Wolf, it's very hard to find places where the vote. This -- remember how big this is. So 1 percent of this county is a big chunk of the vote that's still yet to be in this state. Otherwise, when you find places in some of these tiny counties it's just not enough.

BLITZER: I'm wondering if they're referring to early ballots, absentee ballots. Maybe that's what they're considering at 4 percent. But I assume they count those right away.

KING: Those are -- that's the first votes with we got.


KING: Remember when we had a tiny percentage here and a tiny percentage there. Those are the absentee ballots right away. If you go into the heart of the state, you'll find a couple of small counties, where, you know, maybe a thousand people have voted where they're still slow in the count, but they're harder to find as the night goes on. Just start tapping and tapping. They've done a pretty good job filling in the vote. And so it gets very, very hard.

Again, 96 percent statewide. When the rest of this vote comes in, that could gin that right up to 99 percent statewide because this is such a big chunk of the state. If you keep coming around, we've got 100 percent just about everywhere as you go through.


KING: So I say -- again, I say I cannot see a mathematical way for Rick Santorum to come back in this state. Narrow win for Romney. Santorum will claim, you know, something for that, but in the end, the state looks like that, and if it looks like that, Romney will have a hefty night. That was the biggest contested battleground on Super Tuesday. The only state we're awaiting for after Ohio, Alaska.

BLITZER: And we're going to go up there to Alaska shortly. And there's no doubt that Romney even if he wins the popular vote he's going to win the delegate vote because Santorum didn't get on the ballot in some of those congressional districts. All right, we're checking all of the sources. We want to cross all the T's, dot all the I's. We're going to show you what we know about Ohio. We're also going to Alaska to see what's going on right there. Stay with us. Our coverage will continue in a moment.


BLITZER: Most of the voting in Ohio is done with. There's still a few precincts remaining outstanding. Here's what we know right now with 96 percent of the vote in. Mitt Romney seems to have a relatively comfortable lead, 12,040 votes ahead of Rick Santorum, 38 percent to 37 percent, 12,040 votes. Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul way behind as I have been saying. It's going to very, very difficult for Rick Santorum with the outstanding vote in Ohio to make up that 12,040 vote advantage that Romney currently has.

Let's go over to John King. We've been looking and looking where that 4 percent, John, is the outstanding vote that has not yet been counted in Ohio. Where is it and could it potentially make a difference?

KING: Since we're about to go to Alaska after we figure out Ohio, I'm going to go rogue on you right here. CNN is not ready to make a projection, but I'm just going to tell you, as you see this math at 96 percent, you can't get Senator Santorum back into this. Again, John King going rogue here. Ninety-nine percent in Cuyahoga County, big lead for Governor Romney. A little more vote to come in there. One would assume -- we know where that's going to go.

We come down to Summit County, 100 percent in, here's more of the missing vote right here. Stark County, Ohio, just south of Akron, suburban and exurban area right now, Governor Romney winning only by a 5 percent margin here. But again 89 percent of the vote. That's most of the missing vote in the state of Ohio right now. Romney winning in the county. Not enough votes there -- not enough votes there, Wolf, for Senator Santorum to come back.

BLITZER: All right, John, stand by for a moment because we've got some news. We're going to report right now.

All right, CNN now makes the projection in Ohio. Look at this, Mitt Romney wins the Ohio Republican presidential primary. We have just made this projection based on all the voting that's coming in, where the outstanding voting remains, based on everything we have seen.

Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, wins Ohio. It's a big, big win for Mitt Romney. If he would have lost Ohio, it would have been a disaster for him. It would have raised questions about his electability. There's no doubt that this is a real, real important win for Mitt Romney.

Rick Santorum, to his credit, he got very, very close. And a lot of people are go to be second guessing should he have spent some more money, should he have spent more time in Ohio today and in recent days fighting to get this win? Presumably he didn't because he wasn't even on the ballot in some of those congressional districts and he was not eligible for some of those delegates. And maybe that's why he didn't spend the money or spend the time in Ohio. But he got close but not close enough.

Let's take a look at the map right now and show you what we know. Nine of the 10 contests so far on this Super Tuesday have now been resolved. That, as I say, the big win in Ohio for Mitt Romney. We're waiting for Alaska. We're waiting for Alaska to come in. We presumably will get some results from Alaska very, very soon.

But let's go to CNN's Anderson Cooper right now. He's in the cube. He's going to explain to us how we finally, finally were able to make this projection in Ohio, the Romney win.

COOPER: That's right. I'm with CNN's political director Mark Preston.

So how were we able to do it just now?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, it really just comes down to simple mathematics. And the head of our decision team (INAUDIBLE) says that we're looking at right now about 30,000 outstanding ballots that won't be counted tonight. In order for Rick Santorum to come back and overcome Mitt Romney, we would probably need double that number. So that's why our decision team as we've talked about in every election night when they sit down, they take these models, they crunch them together. And right now they're looking at the real vote. Bottom line is they don't think that Rick Santorum would have enough to come back.

COOPER: That includes absentee ballots?

PRESTON: And provisional ballots.

COOPER: OK. Do we know know anything about Alaska when we'll be able to call that?

PRESTON: We don't. But let's hope it's not at about 4:00 a.m.

COOPER: Yes. You're like, I haven't even been thinking about Alaska.

PRESTON: I know. I mean --


PRESTON: We got us to 2:00. Let's not be 4:00.

COOPER: All right. We'll try not to. Mark, appreciate the hard work on that.

We'll continue to watch Alaska, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Alaska, we'll stand for that. We're going to go up to Alaska, Paul Vercammen is there.

Now we know what has happened in Ohio. Why we were delaying our formal projection, you heard Mark Preston, our political director, say there are 30,000 votes outstanding. But it would have to be overwhelmingly lopsided for Santorum to make up that 12,000 vote difference.

KING: I'm cautious, they're extra cautious on the decision --


KING: For good reason. Absolutely right.

BLITZER: We want to be right.

KING: Absolutely right. If we go back in history and time, there have been -- not here at this network, but the case like states get called the wrong way sometimes. So you want to be extra cautious.

How did Governor Romney do it? Again, if you look at the map here, say, wow, that's a lot of purple. Santorum is purple. You would think if you just took a look at this, he won Ohio. However, those are the places he's winning are your tiny rural counties. We've seen this in some other states. How does Governor Romney put it together in Franklin County, the center part of the state, the capital of Columbus? A decent margin there, five percentage point lead, 41 to 36 percent.

But his biggest success comes in the corners. The key Republican county, Hamilton County, in the southwest corner of the state, a whopping 20-point win for Governor Romney there. You see 16,000 votes almost his margin of victory up there. And then you come up to the top here, look at this up here, in the bigger areas, Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown, the suburbs around them. Governor Romney winning big including Cuyahoga County which is now at 99 percent.

We had to wait for this. This vote came in relatively slowly, but again nearly a 20-point win. In Hamilton County, it's 20 points. In Cuyahoga County, it's 19 points. That is huge. That's overwhelmingly where the biggest vote counts came in for Governor Romney. Offsetting the huge Santorum wins out in the rural areas. Evangelical voters, Tea Party voters, a lot of blue-collar voters out here for Senator Santorum. But Governor Romney winning here.

And you know, Gloria Borger, was making the conversation earlier, these are the areas Republicans have to win in November. A lot of Republican strategists saying just because Romney didn't win them tonight doesn't mean he won't win them in November. But in the battleground areas, in the big cities, Romney winning by big margins, Wolf, running them up, you look again at Summit County at almost a 10- point lead there.

So it took a while. Santorum was leading early on. But the big margins of victory in Cincinnati and the Cleveland area, Wolf, giving Mitt Romney what he needed tonight. The psychological boost not only the delegates but the psychological boost of winning what was the biggest contested Super Tuesday battleground.

BLITZER: I think it's fair to say, John, it would have been a disaster for the Romney campaign if he would have lost Ohio. Would have raised all sorts of questions. He narrowly beats Santorum, not by a lot right now, by 12,000. But it's still a win.

Let's bring in our correspondents to assess where we go from here. Candy Crowley is over at Romney headquarters.

Let's go to you first, Candy. Where does Romney go from here? We know a week from today, two important races in Mississippi and Alabama.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But it's interesting when you talk to the Romney campaign. What are they looking at, Missouri and Illinois? They did not mention a southern state to me when I said, so where do you go next? This was earlier in the evening before he won Ohio, but certainly nothing has changed between then and now.

Their intent is to go to some of those states that have proven a little bit friendlier to Mitt Romney. They obviously see that the south is a tough row for them to hoe. And obviously are going to play there. But the fact of the matter is they're looking at some of those mega states, Missouri and Illinois. And that's where they're headed after this. Maybe not geographically the candidate, but that's what they're going to concentrate on.

And look, for them it's still a delegate count. I mean, you know, Romney wins Ohio. That is a great headline for them. But at this point, they are counting just like everybody else how do you get to 1144 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Candy, when you say Romney is going to play in Mississippi and Alabama, are they going to spend money there advertising? Do we know if they're really going to spend a lot of time there?

CROWLEY: I don't know that at this point, Wolf. I mean I certainly -- you know, there is money there to spend. He also has, as you know, a PAC that can -- that can help him out in that score if he needs helping out and has been in all of these states. I just know that these states that they bring up are not the southern ones that are coming up next Tuesday.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, let's go over to Jim Acosta. He's in Ohio, covering the Santorum campaign. They were outspent an enormous amount. They came close in Ohio, Jim. They didn't come close enough as we now know, we projected Ohio will go to Mitt Romney.

Where does Santorum focus his attention tomorrow?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, not a moment's rest for the Santorum campaign, Wolf. They're heading to Kansas tomorrow. And then Mississippi and Alabama over the next 24 to 48 hours. So they're hitting these next states. Kansas which caucuses on Saturday, and Mississippi and Alabama which have primaries coming up on Tuesday. And they see all of those contests as being very favorable to Rick Santorum. You know, we heard sort of a pugnacious Santorum campaign earlier this evening. They were emboldened by sort of this conventional wisdom busting night that they had here on Super Tuesday.

John Brabender, a senior strategist, for the Santorum campaign, came into this room earlier this evening. He was talking to reporters and basically said, look, if we had a one-on-one shot at Mitt Romney, if conservatives out there could somehow pressure Newt Gingrich to get out of this race, look what happened in Ohio tonight. Look at the margin of victory for Mitt Romney in Ohio. They feel with Newt Gingrich out of the race, they would have won Ohio.

They were looking back to Michigan and saying, look at that margin of victory in Michigan. They would have won Michigan. And they also point out look at the map in terms of their victories tonight. Yes, they won in the south. In Tennessee. Look -- yes, they won out west in Oklahoma, but they won out in North Dakota. Mitt Romney played very heavily for North Dakota. Made a stop in just the last week up there. Was sending his son Josh Romney up there a couple of times over the last week or so.

And so they feel like they've got Mitt Romney on the ropes right now. You know, you heard Rick Santorum earlier tonight in his speech going after Mitt Romney on healthcare reform and that individual mandate. They're going to be going after that over and over and over again, Wolf, in these campaign stops coming up in Kansas, Mississippi and Alabama -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. A week from today, Mississippi and Alabama.

Let's go over to Peter Hamby. He's joining us from Nashville, Tennessee.

Peter, you've spent a lot of time in the south looking at these various races. Does Romney have a significant opportunity in either Mississippi or Alabama or should he just forget about those southern states?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: A troubling trend did emerge tonight. It's not, Wolf, just about the south. Tonight was Mitt Romney's first test in Appalachia of this whole cycle. Look at the Ohio River. Look at the first district of Tennessee. Look at north Georgia, southwest Virginia. Mitt Romney won in southwest Virginia just against Ron Paul. He lost a couple of counties in southwest Virginia. He did not do well among those kind of culturally conservative voters, economically downscale. The kind of folks who cling to guns and religion as Barack Obama inartfully said in 2008.

On this topic of the kind of voters that Mitt Romney does need in November, he lost them tonight in those Appalachian counties. And this is sort of reminiscent of 2008 on the Democratic side, a different context of course. But remember, if you look at a county by county map, or red/blue map in the general election, there was this long red strip that cut down from Pennsylvania all the way into northern Alabama and that was Appalachia.

Barack Obama could not connect with those people. They view him as out of touch and elitist. Mitt Romney, obviously, Harvard educated, Bostonian, millionaire, perhaps might have problems connecting with them. So yes, if you look ahead to some of these states obviously in the south he's going to have problems.

But speaking specifically of those Appalachian counties, look ahead to April and May, West Virginia, Kentucky, those are going to be some problem areas, western Pennsylvania, Wolf, for Mitt Romney as he moves forward in this race.

BLITZER: Well, western Pennsylvania should be a good material for Rick Santorum since he's from western Pennsylvania.

Peter Hamby, stand by. We'll get back to you.

We're still waiting for the results from the 10th state that had elections tonight. The caucuses in Alaska. We know the nine other results. Alaska. We're going there. We'll check in and see what's going on in Alaska. See what's happening up there. Stand by. We're here at the CNN Election Center for you.


BLITZER: All right. Welcome back. We've projected the big win in Ohio for Mitt Romney. We're watching what's going on. He's won five states tonight. Rick Santorum has won three. Newt Gingrich won his home state of Georgia. We're still waiting for Alaska to see what's going on.

You've got the big map of the United States, John. What do you want to show us?

KING: Well, it's interesting if you look. Number one, Romney is winning and a lot of questions about weakness, is it all his money, but if you start looking at the states filling in, 13 of them now for Mitt Romney. Seven for Rick Santorum. Again, Missouri gets an asterisk because when he won that was a beauty contest. We'll go back to Missouri to award the delegates. Two for Newt Gingrich.

I want to make a point quickly. Just what Peter Hamby talking about Appalachian. As the more states vote, we are getting a better picture. Let's look at results by county. Now you see all these small lines. And the states that are all filled in we don't get county results. Remember, caucus states, we don't get county results, but Peter Hamby was talking about along the Ohio River and Appalachia. So let's draw this out. Let's use -- let's just draw this out here. This point was -- look here. These are areas where Republicans need to win to win in November.

Rick Santorum winning, we don't have West Virginia yet. Yes, Romney won in Virginia, along the river, down in Appalachia and the mountains. But only Ron Paul on the ballot. Lost convincingly to Santorum here. The point is, if we go back in time -- we're going to turn this off. Let's go back to the 2008 race. Let's come to the race for president. The race in November. Those are Republican areas. Right? Those are all Republican areas. If you're going to win those states, in Republican states, that's a very important part for the Republicans. So is it a weakness for Mitt Romney? Yes. Does it sustain itself if he's the general election nominee? That would be an interesting question which brings us to that very question, Wolf. If he is the general election nominee.

So let's go to the electoral projection. It's a bit early for this but let's just say hypothetically that Mitt Romney is your nominee. This is the map from 2008 based on the Census results, President Obama with today's delegation of electoral college votes would have a bigger margin than he actually won in the last election. But now let's go through them. Now most people believe that New Hampshire will be a swing state this time. We'll take it away. Republicans hope to put Pennsylvania in play. That's for the sake of this hypothetical -- Democrats at home, don't get nervous, we're going to take it away.

Virginia and North Carolina, impressive wins for Obama last time, let's make them swing states. Florida swing state. Ohio a swing state. Most people think Indiana will go back to Republicans. Let's just take it away from now. You have some Republicans who say we can play here and here. I'll do it for the sake of argument. Ohio will be a swing state. Colorado will be a swing state. Nevada the highest unemployment in the country, you have to make that a swing state.

Some Democrats say hey, Arizona could be a swing state. Let's make that yellow. New Mexico, I'm going to leave that in President Obama's for now. Some Republicans are already arguing with me in November.

Let's just start right here. One, two , three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13. Right? There will be more. There will be more people at home might think so. Let's say this. That gets Obama down to 207. The Republicans to 169. I think our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin is listening to this as we go.

Let's just, Wolf, let me just say, prove it to me, Republicans. I'm going to keep these in the Democratic column until you can prove otherwise. Right? We were in Florida recently for a debate. Even the Democrats down there say this is very tough for President Obama. Let's give it to the Republicans.

Let's for the sake of argument split the difference. Let Obama keep Virginia. And the president's camp there. Give North Carolina to the Republicans. Where are we now? Well, the president is getting close. That was a pickup for the president. Let's give that one. I'm convinced at least for now that just as I say, prove it to me, Republicans, here, prove it to me, Democrats, there, look at this when we get here, now you have Nevada, Iowa, Indiana, most people think goes back to the Republican fold.

For the sake of argument, watch this. That hasn't voted Republican for president for a long time. Prove it to me. Ohio does swing.

You could have a scenario, Wolf, look at that. Right? Look at that --

BLITZER: You need 270.

KING: Three small states. Nevada, let's say the Latino vote right now convinces me that one favors the Democrats. OK? Where did we start this campaign? That would be Iowa and New Hampshire. Is it going to come down to this? Probably not. It probably comes down to Ohio or Florida, but you could have a scenario where you fight state by state and you come down to a tiny state where if the president wins Iowa he gets to 268. And then we fight it out.

Mitt Romney, can you win New Hampshire again? Or does President Obama get New Hampshire? So a lot of people tonight are saying, if you look at the polls, this has taken a toll on the Republicans. President Obama certainly has the advantage right now looking in. But when you go state by state which is how you do presidential politics you could have a dozen swing states and you could have the scenario go anyway. But these states as always -- the bigger states tend to be the big states. But it breaks a certain way and some of these little tiny states could make all the difference.

BLITZER: And here's a scenario that is potentially possible, 269-269. Neither gets the 270. You need -- it goes to the House of the Representatives where the Republicans have a significant majority.

KING: Does Tom Foreman have any virtual House of Representatives?

BLITZER: Yes. That's -- it's a possibility.

KING: Jessica Yellin, I just went through all these states. And again, I know Democrats at home and Republicans at home are arguing with my hypothetical. It's just a hypothetical. But when Team Obama looks at the map, they have to assume Ohio is a swing state. They have to assume Florida is a swing state. They have to put New Hampshire in places like that and Iowa in the swing state category.

Where did they think -- do they think they can surprise us? Remember they turned nine Bush 2004 states red, they turned blue in 2008. Do they see surprises in this map?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the biggest surprise is Arizona where they think that they argue that they can pick up Arizona because of the Latino vote. What I find interesting tonight, John, is conventional wisdom among insiders has been that the Obama team believes that they can win the presidency and -- while losing Ohio. That they've made no secret of the fact that they're mapping out alternative routes to 270 without Ohio, which as you pointed out is not something that's frequently done.

KING: And without Florida, right?

YELLIN: And without Florida. Well, they probably -- they say that both can be done, but they'd like to get one or the other. More scenarios include Florida -- winning in Florida and losing Ohio. What's shifting now is that because of Romney's weaknesses during the primary, there's -- noticing among Democrats that I'm talking to increasing optimism that maybe the president can compete more aggressively in a state like Ohio than they thought he could before because Romney seems to have equal problems with these disaffected, non-college, white working class voters as you've been pointing out all night. And that makes -- they cancel each other out in some ways and Vice President Biden is heading to Ohio next week to start campaigning. He is the president's best surrogate in that -- in that state.

KING: I think that's an excellent calculation. And as you go for it, I know, Jess, you will agree with me here, that we have a couple of big question marks. Does anything unexpected happen in the world where energy prices and more importantly where's the economic data? Recently some bright spots for the president, but we're in early March. The question is, is the economic data in a place where, Jess mentions Ohio, can he fight and play there?

I'll keep that one in swing, keep it a swing state. Florida as well. I always consider Iowa a swing state, and Wolf, I do think the Latino vote makes an interesting calculation out here in these hypotheticals early on. My default is usually prove it for a state that's voted one way, another for a long period of time. But we do know this. We do know this. This is a hypothetical, this is a narrow victory for the president. And this scenario, and I haven't assigned a few states just yet, we do know this, the map will be more competitive this time than last time. That is without a doubt. How much more competitive? That's the question we can't answer yet.

BLITZER: All right. John, thanks very much. You know what, nine states have now made up their minds. One state to be determined. That would be Alaska. I want to go to Alaska right now. Paul Vercammen is standing by.

Are you in Anchorage right now, Paul? And if you are, tell us the vote count as we know it.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, let me set the scene for you. We are at GOP headquarters here in Anchorage. And because Alaska is so spread out, they are going to get these numbers by any means possible. Some via e-mails, some via faxes, phone calls. And right behind me, if you look over my left shoulder here, you will see Randy Ruedrich, he is the state GOP chairman

From what we know right now, Romney is off to a good start with just 2 1/2 districts in. And he has 300 and some odd votes. I know Randy has some numbers in his hand right now.

Randy, go ahead and step in here if you could please. As we said, in Alaska they will receive their votes in all sorts of means. You've got a fax there. Tell me who's reporting. I guess Kodiak.

RANDY RUEDRICH, ALASKA GOP CHAIRMAN: This is from the city of Kodiak. The island down south. Gingrich 36, Paul 68, Romney 67, Santorum 61, and one undecided.

VERCAMMEN: We've got a very even split here in some ways. I mean, everybody is getting votes tonight.

RUEDRICH: Everybody got votes. The three leaders are separated by a grand total of one vote. And Gingrich has roughly one-seventh of the vote where the other two each have two-sevenths.

VERCAMMEN: We are talking about the three leaders in Kodiak, though not overall in Alaska. RUEDRICH: That's right.

VERCAMMEN: If you were to guess when you might have these final numbers in, when might that be?

RUEDRICH: Hopefully by 10:00 or shortly after 10:00, Alaskan time, which is 2:00 Eastern Time is our objective. Polls closed at 8:00. We had some places that had to finish voting people who were on the premises. And they probably will not start counting ballots until 8:15 or 8:30. So we will have more results coming in every few minutes as the day wears on.

VERCAMMEN: Go ahead and give us those Kodiak numbers again just to make triple sure.

RUEDRICH: Thirty-six Gingrich, 68 Paul, 67 Romney, 67 Santorum.

VERCAMMEN: Ron Paul stopped by here the other night. Rousing crowds in Anchorage. Probably did him some good.

RUEDRICH: I'm sure it did. It motivated some people to participate who probably wouldn't have shown up. If he didn't show up, I had one gal say to me today that the only reason she voted for Ron Paul is he cared enough to come to the state.

VERCAMMEN: We'll see how that plays out. It certainly helped him in Kodiak there where he just edged out Mitt Romney.

RUEDRICH: By one vote.

VERCAMMEN: Appreciate your taking time with us.

RUEDRICH: Take care.

VERCAMMEN: He's got to go back to work. So as we speak, you can see also Christy over my right shoulder, if you have any numbers that you want to give us, please let us know. The numbers are starting to trickle in just barely, Wolf, and stay with us. We could be here for a while. Back to you now in the studio.

BLITZER: Paul Vercammen, we're going to watch closely together with you. We also saw a tweet earlier, Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, said she voted for Newt Gingrich in Alaska. Her husband formally endorsed Newt Gingrich. Much more of our coverage right after this.