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Mitt Romney Wins Virginia Primary With Lethargic Voter Turnout

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Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Mitt Romney easily won a poor turnout presidential primary in Virginia Tuesday, where he was one of only two candidates on the ballot. His win was widely expected.

With about three-fourths of precincts reporting, the former Massachusetts governor had 59 percent of the vote to 41 percent for Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich both failed to make Virginia’s ballot.

Forty-six of the state’s 49 delegates were at stake in a race that generated little energy among the state’s Republicans. With strength all over the state, Romney could take all the pledged convention delegates.

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Paul showed isolated pockets of support, many of them in Democratic strongholds, possibly the result of meddling in the open GOP primary by Democrats and independents. Paul prevailed in Charlottesville and the coal mining city of Norton. With three-fourths of the vote in the heavily Democratic 3rd Congressional District in, Paul had 52 percent of the vote.

In a day of hotly contested Super Tuesday primaries elsewhere, Virginia was an afterthought because half of the remaining GOP field was absent from the ballot.

Santorum and Gingrich failed in December to submit the qualifying petitions necessary to qualify for the ballot, as did now-withdrawn candidates Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Utah Gov. John Huntsman.

Perry sued in federal court to force his name onto the ballot, challenging a Virginia law that requires those who circulate qualifying petitions be Virginia residents. Others joined Perry’s lawsuit, and a court ruled that while the law likely is unconstitutional, the plaintiffs challenged it too late.

The few voters who turned out took note, too.

At a precinct less than two miles from Gingrich’s McLean home, the election went largely unnoticed. Only 30 of the precinct’s more than 3,000 voters cast ballots by 10 a.m.

In nearby Falls Church, voter Darren Ewing was frustrated that Virginia’s election laws did not allow him to write in Gingrich’s name, so he reluctantly voted for Paul.

Gingrich “may not be the most polished candidate, but he’s a candidate with a vision” and a track record of implementing significant changes, said Ewing, 41, a financial adviser.

Republicans were divided over the state’s exacting ballot qualifying rules that statewide candidates submit 10,000 valid registered voters’ names, including 400 each from all of the state’s 11 congressional districts. Some, faulting it for skimpy ballot choices, say it needs to be change. Others, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, say it’s not only fair but proper.

“As I’ve said many times, if you’re going to be president of the United States, you ought to be able to get 10,000 signatures in Virginia,” he said.

Romney had built-in advantages in Virginia. Besides the wealthy Romney’s enormous financial advantage, he had the backing of Virginia’s GOP elite: U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and McDonnell, who has been a top vice presidential running mate prospect if Romney is the nominee.

All-News 99.1 WNEW will have live, up to the minute coverage of the Super Tuesday returns on-air and online.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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