Mitt Romney scored a consolation win in the Republican caucus in Hawaii, hours after going down to a double defeat in Alabama and Mississippi, results showed.
With 82 percent of precincts reporting on the Pacific island state, Romney had 45 percent of the votes ahead of Tuesday’s big winner Rick Santorum on 25 percent, according to results posted on the Republican Party of Hawaii website.
Texas Representative Ron Paul was on 18 percent, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trailing in fourth spot on 11 percent.
“Because the state is President (Barack) Obama’s birthplace, winning Republican support here is kind of a moral victory” State Republican Party chair David Chang said before the results were announced.
The Pacific island state sends 20 delegates to the Republican convention in August. Romney is tipped to win up to seven of those, depending on the final results tally.
Earlier the former Massachusetts governor also won in American Samoa, taking nine delegates in a winner-takes-all on the tiny Pacific territory, according to media reports.
Romney is already ahead in the all-important delegate count, having about 40 percent of the 1,144 needed at the Republican convention in August, with Santorum in second place and Gingrich and Paul trailing well behind.
With the sixth highest ratio of Mormons in the United States, Hawaii has long been considered safe for Romney, also because he is the most moderate Republican candidate in a state where 72 percent backed Democrat Obama in 2008.
At the caucuses, Honolulu travel agent Sandra Nakasone said she hesitated to the last. “I really wanted to vote for Newt Gingrich,” she said. “But he can’t win. So I was still undecided when I came to vote.”
She eventually chose former senator Santorum, she said, “because he’s the true conservative; Romney is really a moderate.”
Retired school teacher Emma Mimura of Kaneohe said most of the people around her at the Castle High School polling place were there for Santorum, but she was sticking with Ron Paul.
“He stays the same — he has the same positions he had in 1974,” she said.
Bruce Palenske, also of Kaneohe, said he chose Romney for his business experience and “because he has the best chance to beat Obama.”