U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney greets the crowd during his Wisconsin and Maryland primary night rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin April 3, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Darren Hauck
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In dairy-land Wisconsin, Mitt Romney is the head cheese.
The Massachusetts Mormon also won Republican primaries in Maryland and D.C., pulling off a trifecta Tuesday and signalling for many conservatives this bitterly contested GOP primary is coming to a close.
At 10:00 p.m. ET, with 38% of precincts reporting, Romney was declared the Wisconsin winner with 43% to Rick Santorum's 38%.
In Maryland, Romney won with nearly 50%, and in D.C., where Santorum didn't even get on the ballot, Romney cruised to victory with nearly 70% support.
Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul trailed badly in all three states.
"Thank you Wisconsin, Maryland and D.C., we won 'em all," Romney told supporters in Milwaukee Tuesday night, and focused his barbs on President Barack Obama.
But Santorum isn't going without a fight, vowing to stay in the race Tuesday night at a post-election rally in Pennsylvania. He blasted those in his own party who are increasingly calling for him to bow out of the race.
"We have now reached the point where it's half time. Who is ready to charge out of the dressing room for a strong second half?" He said to cheering supporters. "We're hitting the field. The clock starts tonight."
While Santorum, Gingrich and Paul insist they'll keep fighting, Democrats have all but called the race over and have unleashed a new round of TV attacks on Romney in five key swing states criticizing his support for the tax breaks for America's largest oil companies.
Romney shot back at Obama on Tuesday, offering hints of what a November general election fight between the two would look like.
“So the president put an ad out yesterday talking about gasoline prices and how high they are. And guess who he blames? Me,” Romney told supporters in Wisconsin on Tuesday.
“Maybe after I'm president I can take responsibility for things I might have done wrong, but this president doesn't want to take responsibility for his mistakes.”
With Tuesday's wins, Romney has a very wide lead over the others in delegates: 630 to Santorum's 264. Gingrich has 137 and Paul has 71.
Making matters worse for the socially conservative Santorum, Romney is also poised to win at least four, if not all five, contests on April 24, including the massive prize of New York.
Republicans of all stripes have been increasingly calling for Santorum and Gingrich to bow out and end the Republican race, and big-wig Republicans have been lining up recently to endorse Romney as the candidate with the best chance to beat Obama.
Last week, he got the nod from Tea Party darlings Sen. Marco Rubio and Congressman Paul Ryan, as well as former president George Bush Sr. and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
Both Romney and Santorum were expected to start campaigning in Pennsylvania, Santorum's home state, Wednesday where Romney has been catching up to the former senator in recent polls.