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Romney closes in on magic delegate number with primary sweeps in Arkansas, Kentucky

By SUSAN WALKER
May 23, 2012

Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

Mitt Romney closed in on the Republican Presidential nomination Tuesday, sweeping primaries in Arkansas and Kentucky, ending the day just 79 delegates shy of the 1,144 needed to officially clinch the race.

Romney captured all 42 delegates in Kentucky and 31 of the 33 up for grabs in in Arkansas.  A convincing win next week in Texas could put him over the top.

“Romney is the nominee,” GOP political operative Chris Sloan told Capitol Hill Blue Tuesday.

The former Massachusetts governor spent primary day raising campaign cash, raking in $5 million at a New York event, capping a three-day, $15 million swing through the Empire State.

In Kentucky, Romney captured 66.7 percent of the vote. Paul received 12.5 percent while two candidates no longer in the race — Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich — collectively pulled in 14.8 percent of the vote.

Non-candidate Santorum finished third to Paul in Arkansas by just one-tenth of one percent with 13.3 percent of the vote, compared to 13.4 percent while Gingrich came in last at 4.9 percent and Romney took the gold with 68.3 percent.

“Republican voters have made their choice,” Romney campaign worker Ann Hastings said.

As Romney emerges as the winner of a brutal primary season, polls show him virtually tied in head-to-head match-ups against Obama, which surprises some GOP officials.

Among those changing their view is former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former Gingrich supporter, who told Politico:

Romney is a lot better off than I expected him to be this quickly. A lot of people were concerned that Romney, with his being the least conservative of all the Republican candidates, was going to have to work hard to unite the party — that he would have a serious sales job on his hands. But President Obama has apparently taken care of that for him.

After Tuesday’s primaries, figures compiled by The Republican National Committee and The Associated Press show Romney with 1,065 delegates, Santorum with 253, Gingrich at 131 and Paul at 119.  With 717 delegates up for grabs in the remaining primaries, Romney only needs to capture just over 10 percent (79 delegates) to clinch the nomination.

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