WASHINGTON (AP) – Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and their Republican presidential rivals vied for delegates Saturday in Washington state caucuses, a quiet prelude to 10 Super Tuesday contests next week in all regions of the country.
Romney, Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul all campaigned in the first West Coast state to vote in the Republican presidential race, but a minimal television ad campaign turned it into a relatively low-key contest.
There were 40 delegates at stake, and a likelihood that two or perhaps more of the contenders for the nomination to oppose President Barack Obama would add to their totals.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, had 173 delegates at the beginning of the day, according to an Associated Press count that includes party officials who will vote on the selection of a nominee, but are not selected at primaries or caucuses. Santorum had 87, Gingrich 33 and Paul 20. It takes 1,144 delegates to win the nomination at the Republican National Convention next summer in Tampa.
Romney wrapped up his Washington campaigning on Friday night, where he told a large crowd he would focus on creating jobs if he wins the White House.
“Getting good jobs for you will be the job I care most about. I want to have more jobs and less debt and smaller government — that’s what my theme is going to be,” he said in remarks that omitted mention of his rivals.
Santorum spent the day in Ohio, where he touted his plan to improve the nation’s manufacturing base and said part of the effort must include a reduction in the number of children born out of wedlock. In Cincinnati, the former Pennsylvania senator said there’s less freedom in neighborhoods “where there are no dads.”
Gingrich also campaigned in Ohio and drew laughs when he recalled what a voter in Tennessee had told him recently about rising gasoline prices. He said the man had said Obama has his own version of former candidate Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. “He wants us to pay $9.99 a gallon,” he said.
The former House speaker has said he must notch a Super Tuesday win in Georgia, where he launched his political career, but said he also has a chance to pick up delegates in Ohio.
Ron Paul was meeting voters in Washington, where he hopes to rack up his first win.
It was a quirk in the campaign calendar that made Washington’s caucuses the relatively low-key event that they were, sandwiched between a high-stakes clash between Romney and Santorum in Michigan and next-up primaries and caucuses in 10 states with 419 delegates at stake.
Of the 10, Ohio is the crown jewel, a big industrial state where Romney and Santorum maneuvered for their next showdown, and where Gingrich said he hopes to pick up a few delegates as well.
Apart from Ohio and Georgia, there also are primaries in Massachusetts, where Romney was governor, and Virginia, where Gingrich and Santorum failed to qualify for the ballot. Other primaries are in Tennessee, Oklahoma and Vermont.
Alaska, North Dakota and Idaho have caucuses.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)