Romney picks up win in Washington state

By Andrew Winner ,AFP

SEATTLE, Washington — Mitt Romney picked up another victory in the race for the Republican presidential nomination late Saturday as he carried his party’s caucuses in the northwestern state of Washington. Romney declared victory in the contest after returns showed him far ahead of former senator Rick Santorum and Texas congressman Ron Paul, who struggled for second place. With all the ballots counted, Romney finished ahead with 37.6 percent of the vote, Paul was a distant second with 24.8 percent followed closely by Santorum with 23.8 percent.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich ended the race fourth with just 10.3 percent of the vote. “I’m heartened to have won the Washington caucuses, and I thank the voters for their support,” Romney said after most of the precincts had reported. “Every day that passes with Barack Obama in the White House is a day in which America’s recovery from the economic crisis is delayed.”

Party officials said there was record turnout for the caucuses. The candidates now head into Super Tuesday, next week’s crucial string of primaries and caucuses in 10 states. Kirby Wilbur, the state’s Republican party chairman, said 21,000 voters had cast ballots and some counties had yet to return their results.