The field of Republican presidential candidates didn’t become any more clear Tuesday night after results were declared for the largest number of contests on a single day during the GOP primary season.
On Super Tuesday, when 10 states held primaries to award a total of 437 delegates, each of the Republican candidates who had previously won states — former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich — took claim to new victories. Libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) didn’t win any states.
Romney won six states: Alaska, Ohio, Massachusetts, Vermont, Idaho and Virginia. Santorum had three in his column: Tennessee, North Dakota and Oklahoma. Gingrich picked up a win in his home state of Georgia.
The contest in Ohio was the most highly contested between Romney and Santorum. A winner in the state, where total of 66 delegates were up for grabs, wasn’t declared until after midnight.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Romney won 38 percent of the vote, while Santorum had 37 percent. The win for Romney was narrow even though he reportedly outspent Santorum in Ohio by a 12 to 1 ratio.
Ed Mullen, executive director of Equality Ohio, said a win for Romney was more favorable than a win for the more anti-gay Santorum.
“While Gov. Romney has expressed anti-LGBT positions during the campaign, it is heartening to see that Ohioans rejected the radical anti-LGBT positions of Rick Santorum, who traveled the state with Maggie Gallagher,” Mullen said.
Gallagher, founder of the National Organization for Marriage and one of the most high-profile anti-gay activists, campaigned with Santorum in Ohio and spoke on his behalf at rallies.
But Romney’s other wins aren’t surprising. Massachusetts is the state where Romney has served in his highest capacity as a government official, and Vermont is nearby in geography and Republicans there have a similar temperament. Idaho has a large presence of Mormons, which is Romney’s religion. In Virginia, Romney was one of two candidates on the ballot along with Paul.
Kara Suffredini, executive director of MassEquality, said Romney’s win in Massachusetts “was not unexpected” as she cautioned a Romney presidency would “be very bad news for LGBT people across America.”
“To go from President Barack Obama, who has accomplished more than any president in U.S. history to embrace the full dignity of LGBT people across the United States and around the globe, to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has actively opposed justice for LGBT youth and families at every turn, would be a tremendous setback for LGBT Americans,” Suffredini said.
As governor, Romney opposed a Massachusetts Supreme Court granting same-sex couples the right to marry and renewed enforcement of a 1913 anti-miscegenation law to block gay couples from other states from coming to the state to marry. According to MassEquality, Romney abolished the Governor’s Commission on GLBT Youth and rescinded an executive order prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in the state workforce. Another Republican, former Gov. William Weld, had put those measures in place.
Despite the split wins among the candidates, Romney still has the lead in terms of total delegates won in the Republican primary. According to the Associated Press, Romney has 212 while Santorum has 84, Gingrich has 72 and Paul has 22.
Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, said Romney has won “the lion’s share of delegates at stake” and Super Tuesday “all but guarantees that Romney will be the eventual nominee of the Republican Party.” LaSalvia has personally endorsed the candidate in the Republican primary.
“Obviously this process is technically not over,” LaSalvia said. “Despite the large delegate lead enjoyed by Gov. Romney, other candidates in the field have made it clear that they intend to continue on. The question that Republicans, and conservatives in particular, must begin to ask themselves is whether continuing this process is in the best interest of our movement, the party and – most importantly – our country.”
LaSalvia also took a dig at President Obama, saying he and “the left” are “fanning the flames of the culture wars” to distract Americans from economic issues facing the country.
Heads of LGBT groups in Tennessee and Oklahoma said they weren’t surprised Santorum won in their states because they said his anti-gay message resonate with voters there.
Chris Sanders, chair of Tennessee Equality Project’s Nashville Committee, said Tennessee’s LGBT community “is disgusted but not surprised” with Santorum’s win.
“Santorum’s comments about our community track closely with the kind of anti-equality legislation we’re fighting in this state,” Sanders said. “The results show that we have significant work to do in Tennessee if we are going to move the culture in favor of equality and away from the worst discriminatory policies and rhetoric.”
Tennessee State Sen. Stacey Campfield was among those who came to support Santorum even though the lawmaker was initially Gingrich’s co-chair of his Tennessee. He’s sponsor of the legislation commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would prohibit discussion about homosexuality in schools from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Toby Jenkins, executive director of Oklahomans for Equality, also he’s “not surprised” with Santorum’s win in his state.
“He used a lot of buzzwords and fear statements that are people out here in this part of the country identify with because he panders to their worst fears and makes all sorts of outrageous suggestions about the LGBT community,” Jenkins said. “The reality is we’re not some outside force. Most of us out here are products of Oklahoma.”
Santorum has made his opposition to LGBT rights — in particular his opposition to same-sex marriage — well-known throughout his campaign across the country.
Jenkins said he isn’t aware of any anti-gay rhetoric from Santorum while he was in the state, but heard reports of people who were escorted out of his events because they pressed him on social issues.
Each of the Republican candidates who’ve won states have staked out anti-gay positions. Romney, Santorum and Gingrich have a signed a pledge from the National Organization for Marriage committed themselves upon election to the White House to backing a Federal Marriage Amendment, defending the Defense of Marriage Act and setting up a commission on religious freedom to investigate alleged harassment of opponents of same-sex marriage.
Santorum has said he’d reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” while Gingrich has said he’d order an “extensive review” of going back to the policy. Romney said he has no plans to return to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The next major contest will take place on Saturday in Kansas, where 40 delegates are in play. The U.S. protectorates, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are also set to hold conventions.
NOTE: This post has been updated.