Live: Ohio Primary Results, Mitt Romney Wins Over Santorum In Epic Contest

OHIO PRIMARY RESULTS LIVE UPDATES:

11:30 p.m. PolicyMic calls it for Romney. The remaining uncounted votes are likely to increase his lead. Romney will end up winning 5 states on Super Tuesday.

11:20 p.m. Pundits like David Gergen and John King start to call it for Romney. One interesting note, the NYT reports that if the final results are within ~2,000 votes, or 0.25% of the total, Ohio state law mandates a recount. 

11:11 p.m. Mitt Romney leads swells to 6,000 votes with 86% reporting.

11:06 p.m Mitt Romney takes the lead by ~2,000 votes with 86% reporting.

11:02 p.m. Rick Santorum still leads by 0.3% over Romney.

10:52 p.m. WOW! Santorum leads Mitt Romney by less than 2,500 votes in Ohio now with almost 80% reporting.

10:44 p.m. Mitt Romney surges and closes the gap with Rick Santorum! With 75% reporting, Santorum leads by only 6,000 votes.

10:24 p.m. Santorum hangs on to a close lead in Ohio primary with a <2% over Romney.

Take a look at the country breakdown via CNN.

9:56 p.m. Santorum Will Win Ohio? 

According to Nate Silver of the New York Times, Santorum might be sitting pretty in Ohio. "One way to get an idea of this is to assume that each county will account for the same share of the state's vote that it did in 2008. This method is potentially more reliable than making extrapolations based on the number of precincts that have have reported in each county, since precincts can vary significantly within a county in the number of voters they contain.

"If you weight the 2012 margins between Santorum and Romney as reported so far by the 2008 turnout in each county, it suggests that Santorum's margin might narrow slightly, but that he is perhaps the slight favorite to hold on; that method would have him winning statewide by 1.2 percentage points."

9:49 p.m. Rick Santorum Widens Lead, with 39% of the vote to Mitt Romney's 35%. Even given his lead, Santorum did not make any bold predictions during his lackluster speech tonight in Ohio.

9:35 p.m. Ohio Primary Deadlocked With 23% of polls reporting in Ohio, Rick Santorum has taken a two point lead. Santorum is ahead of Romney 38% to 36%. Santorum is winning in rural areas, while Romney is taking urban areas including Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus.

9:26 p.m. Santorum takes the lead in Ohio, 39% to Romney's to 26% with 24% reporting. His campaign speech in Ohio has been lackluster so far. Perhaps, he's concerned about the 9 congressional districts he won't be able to receive delegates for because his campaign did not register. As Jesse Merkel reminded us:

8:00 p.m. Catholic Vote Could Hurt Santorum in Ohio: Exit polls in Ohio show Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum tied among Protestant voters -- but they have Mitt Romney leading, 43 to 30, among Catholic ones.

This pattern isn't new -- it also manifested itself in Michigan -- but Ohio has slightly more Catholic voters than Michigan does.

7:50 p.m. Romney leads Santorum 39% to 37% with ~1% reporting. Exit polls showed favorable trends for Romney. Because candidates need to reach 20% threshold to get any delegates, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich will likely be shut out from the race there.

Voter Indifference in the Buckeye State According to the New York Times' Nate Silver, in Ohio, just 43% of voters said they strongly favored their candidate. Another 41% said they liked their candidate but with reservations, while 13% said they voted for him solely because they disliked the other candidates.

The 43% "strongly favor" figure is the lowest in any state so far, although exit polls have not posed this question to voters in all states. The figure was 63% in Iowa, 51% in Arizona, and 45% in Michigan.

The Ohio figure is also lower than other states which voted today. In Georgia, 56% of voters strongly favored their candidate, in Massachusetts 54%, and in Tennessee 48%.

6:30 p.m. Bad Economics in Ohio: According to exit polls, for voters in Ohio, the economy clearly outweighed social issues, with nearly 6 in 10 saying the economy was the most important issue in deciding whom to vote for today. Just about 1 in 10 voters said abortion was the issue that mattered most to their vote.

Ohio Picks Winners: Ohio has voted for the eventual Republican nominee in each nomination cycle since the modern primary era began in 1972. It is one of 10 states to have done so; the others are Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Wisconsin.

9:00 a.m. Is Barack Obama the real winner in the Ohio primary? PolicyMicer Bryan Bradford in Columbus writes: " Coming in to Super Tuesday, one might sum up the atmosphere in Ohio as 'uninterested:' uninterested in the candidates, their rhetoric, the attack ads, and the back-and-forth jabs that the candidates take at each other. 

"In my opinion and the opinion of those I have spoken with recently, there is only one clear winner when it comes to this primary election cycle ... President Obama.

"See, Ohioans aren't interested in hearing 'why we SHOULDN'T vote for the other guy.' We want to know why we SHOULD vote for YOU. But we don't want you to stop there. We want to know HOW you're going to do the things you say you want to accomplish. 

Four years ago, Barack Obama did an unprecedented job of not only inspiring generations of voters, but he also told us how he was going to keep his promises. The GOP candidates have yet to do either of those things. In the opinions of many Ohio voters I've spoken with, if the President wants to lock up a second term, all he has to do is step back and watch the Republicans cannibalize themselves."

Sunday: The New York Times currently projects that Santorum will win Ohio, edging out Romney. According to NYT's Nate Silver, Santorum currently has a64% chance of winning to Romney's 36%.

Saturday: At a speech in Cincinnati, Mitt Romney hammered President Barack Obama for his  management of the economy and the military.

Sensing an upward tick in Ohio momentum, a trend acknowledged both by Romney campaign advisers and Republican insiders here, the former Massachusetts governor largely ignored his rivals at two campaign events and sounded instead like the Republican nominee, attacking the president.

Santorum Struggling: Rick Santorum's lead in Ohio's Republican presidential primary has evaporated, according to a new poll.

A Quinnipiac University survey released Friday indicates that 35% of likely GOP primary voters in the Buckeye State say they back the former senator from Pennsylvania, with 31% supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Santorum's four-point advantage is within the survey's sampling error, meaning it's basically all tied up in Ohio.

4 PM: Mitt Romney holds a town hall in Dayton.

9 AM: Rick Santorum holds a "Rally for Rick" in Cincinnati.

Friday 2:30 PM: Though Ohio carries outsize political weight, CNN reports the primary is starting to look like the Democratic 2008 nomination. The winner will not be decided on Super Tuesday. This nomination fight will continue on to the summer.

2:30 PM CNN's Peter Hamby explains why Ohio is so important:

"Though the state has 10 fewer delegates than Georgia, Ohio carries enormous symbolic weight both as a general election bellwether and a Republican proving ground.

Ohio will test each candidate’s ability to connect with GOP voters of all stripes — from rural, small town conservatives to working class whites to wealthier moderates in the suburbs around Cincinnati and Cleveland."

2:30 PM Politico reports that total spending in Ohio has crossed $6 million for television and radio ads. Romney's campaign and super PAC has shelled out close to $1.5 million already, while Restore Our Future has put in $2,369,244. That totals nearly $3.9 million. The pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future has put in $736,044. Rick Santorum’s campaign has spent just $386,669, while his super PAC has put in $515,937.

2:25 PM The Washington Post reports that the Ohio Republican Party says the primary is “semi-open,” which makes it a lot like Michigan. “You can ask for a Republican ballot or a Democratic ballot,” a worker at the party headquarters in Columbus said, according to the Post. Watch out for Democrats to come out and vote for Santorum to try to thwart Mitt Romney.

Background

PolicyMic will be providing live updates on all the contests as we receive them. Below are bullet points, data points, and every blurb you need to know to stay updated on the Ohio race. Updates will also be made as they come in.

Ohio is the prize jewel on Super Tuesday, and the Republican candidates are pouring in money and time campaigning in the state ahead of next week's primary. It has 66 delegates up for grabs, second only behind Georgia's 76 delegates, and it is shaping up to be a close race.

Two recent surveys of Ohio voters by Rasmussen Reports and Quinnipiac University were released on March 1, and both polls show a tight race between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. The first shows Santorum 33 percent of the vote with Romney trailing by two points, while the Quinnipiac poll indicates that Santorum leads Romney by four points (35 to 31 percent).

Newt Gingrich trails in third place, with Ron Paul trailing in fourth behind all three candidates.

In the most recent poll, Santorum has opened up a larger lead among women, who now favor him over Romney 37 percent to 33 percent.

Friday is the last day for early voting in the primary (election offices will close at 6:00pm). In addition to the Republican presidential primary, there are also congressional, state, and country primaries.

PolicyMic will be updating this page with live updates on Ohio as they come in. Check back for more over the weekend.  

If you're in Ohio and have a tip about the campaign and Super Tuesday mood, comment below or let us know.

See More Live Super Tuesday Updates here.

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