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mitt romney in puerto rico Mitt Romney shakes hands during a campaign stop in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, on March 17. Puerto Rico held its Republican primary election on March 18. (Photo: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Election 2012: Romney Wins Puerto Rico as Missouri Caucuses

Still no clear frontrunner as primary hits halfway mark

By Andrew Liang | March 19 , 2012

We're at the halfway point of the 2012 Republican primary, and there is still no clear frontrunner.

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have won most of the primaries thus far. Newt Gingrich has picked up a couple wins. Ron Paul is still looking for his first victory.

As the candidates get closer to the Republican National Convention in August, each primary contest gains importance. This past weekend featured a primary and a caucus all the candidates wanted to win.

On Saturday, Missouri began its caucus. And on Sunday, Puerto Rico held its primary. Puerto Ricans can take part in primaries, but cannot do so in the general presidential elections, so this is the only time they will be able to participate in picking America's next President.

Romney won the Puerto Rico primary in a landslide with 83 percent of the vote. But more importantly, he won the territory's 20 delegates.

In Missouri, the results of the caucus — and the owner of the state's delegates — won't be known until April.

This wasn't the first Republican election this primary season for the people of Missouri. On February 7, the state held a non-binding primary. That means that whoever won would be awarded zero delegates.

Why did Missouri do this? In 2008, the Republican National Committee set a rule that no state other than Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada may hold its primary prior to the first Monday of March. In 2012, that meant March 6. If a state broke this rule, then it would risk losing half of its delegates towards the Republican National Convention.

In Missouri, the state primary was set for February 7. In order to keep all of its delegates, it moved to a caucus to be held on March 17. But because of politics, the February primary was still scheduled to take place. This meant the candidates would campaign in the state twice — first for a primary that gave the winner nothing but momentum, and then a caucus that actually awarded delegates.

In all, 52 delegates are at stake in Missouri. Santorum won the Missouri primary by an overwhelming majority with 55.2 percent of the vote, while Romney finished second with 25.3 percent.

Santorum is expected to keep the lead in the caucuses though results haven't come out yet. For Santorum to have a shot at the nomination, he knows what's at stake the second time around in Missouri.

"Delegates," Santorum said. "It's as simple as that. They matter. We still believe that there are plenty of delegates out there for us to do what we have been doing, which is actually going out there and winning states and winning the tough battles and doing so over pretty overwhelming odds."

Romney currently leads all candidates with 521 delegates. Santorum is in second place with 253. Newt Gingrich has 136 delegates and Paul has 50. A total of 1,144 delegates are needed for a candidate to become the Republican nominee and challenge incumbent President Barack Obama in the November general election.

"I know a lot of people will talk about delegates and strategies and math and that's all very interesting to the insiders," Romney said. "But I think the American people want to see someone who has the leadership, skill, and experience to beat the President. I can't tell you exactly how the process is going to work. But I bet I'm going to become the nominee."

It's still a long road to the nomination for Romney — and the other candidates.

On Tuesday, voters head to the polls in Illinois. This is followed by the Louisiana primary on Saturday. In April, seven states — including New York and Pennsylvania — as well as the District of Columbia cast their ballots. After that, 14 states will be left to vote.

In all, there are still 1,324 delegates up for grabs. It's still anyone's nomination.

ELECTION 2012

Scholastic News Kid Reporters are on the campaign trail! Keep up with latest election news on the Election 2012 website.

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