Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney narrowly beat out former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in the key swing state of Ohio yesterday as Republicans in 10 states took to the polls as the presidential nominating contest continued.

In the split night of the Super Tuesday contests, Romney won five states and Santorum won three, extending Romney’s lead in delegates while also reinvigorating the campaigns of Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. According to University professors, last night’s contests denied any of the candidates the chance for a decisive turn in the race, and the results could prolong the contest even longer.

Romney scored decisive victories in Massachusetts — where he formerly served as governor — Virginia, Vermont and Idaho. Santorum won North Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma, while in Ohio — a so-called bellwether state due to its close political divisions — Romney defeated Santorum by a margin of 38 percent to 37 percent.

Results in Alaska were not yet reported as of 2:30 a.m.

At a rally in Steubenville, Ohio, Santorum said he was “ready to win across this country.”

“It’s clear. We’ve won races all over this country against the odds,” Santorum said. “When they thought, ‘Oh, OK, he’s finally finished,’ we keep coming back. We are in this thing.”

Santorum appeared to gain momentum after three consecutive victories in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota last month, which was stifled following losses in Maine, Michigan, Arizona and Washington. Last night’s wins are his first since his successes in early February.

Michael Heaney, an assistant professor of political science, said Santorum performed well and regained some momentum from Romney with his strong victories in the South and his challenge to Romney in Ohio.

“I’m not sure I’d call Santorum a loser,” Heaney said. “I mean, Santorum looks quite strong. He performed quite well in Ohio.”

However, Heaney declared the night had been “convincingly won by Romney.” He said that while Romney — who has maintained a substantial lead in the delegate count from the start of the GOP race — may not appeal to the whole Republican Party, he is the party’s best candidate and is now the clear frontrunner.

“Super Tuesday looks a lot like what we’ve been seeing for the last two months, which is Romney is not loved by the Republican Party but he is winning,” Heany said.

In Ohio, where Romney and Santorum exchanged leads for most of the night, Romney’s narrow victory was hailed as a key triumph over Santorum in a battleground state.

However, since Heaney said Santorum was not eligible for delegates in some parts of the state for legal reasons, he said Romney would win most of the state’s delegates, a fact more important than either candidate winning the popular vote.

“One candidate might win by one percent, but Romney’s going to get the most delegates in Ohio no matter who wins the popular vote,” he said in an interview last night, before Romney was declared the winner early this morning.

Though Romney won convincingly in Massachusetts and Virginia, Santorum fared well in the southern states. Ken Kollman, a professor of political science, said Santorum’s performance in the South is a sign of the ongoing search for an alternative to Romney and of Santorum’s ability to maintain momentum in the race.

“I think Santorum is keeping himself in the race, and it’s a victory that he is the main alternative to Romney,” Kollman said. “He’s going to stay in the race for a long time, but he can’t seem to do a knockout punch.”

Despite Santorum’s perseverance, Kollman said Santorum’s persistent deficit in the delegate count could become troublesome for him as Romney continues to accumulate delegates in each subsequent primary.

“This is ultimately a race about getting seats at the convention,” Kollman said. “He’s winning those, and he’s got an advantage there.”

LSA junior Brian Koziara, external vice chair of the University’s chapter of the College Republicans, agreed with Heaney that Super Tuesday was a success for Romney because he continued to add to his lead in the delegate count. Koziara said Romney’s five wins re-established him as the frontrunner in the Republican race.

“Now that we’re actually getting into the contested part of this, it’s become all about the delegates — who can actually win the delegates,” he said. “And in that regard, Romney won the night.”

Even in states where Santorum earned the majority of delegates and the popular vote, Koziara said the successes were only “technically” wins for Santorum because in every state, except Georgia and Tennessee, Romney gained a significant portion of the delegates.

“I think for Santorum it’s a little bit of a hollow victory,” Koziara said. “Technically he won three states — pending results in Alaska — but what Santorum needs to do is not just win states; he needs to stop Romney from amassing delegates. And he wasn’t able to do that this evening.”

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