BOSTON (AP) — Mitt Romney cruised to an easy primary win in Massachusetts on Tuesday, besting his fellow Republican presidential hopefuls in a state that he governed for four years and that the other GOP candidates all but conceded.
Romney handily beat Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, who put little money or effort into trying to deny him a victory.
Romney said his “campaign is on the move and real change is finally on the way” as he addressed supporters Tuesday night at the Westin Copley Place hotel in Boston.
WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson reports
“We’re going to take your vote, a huge vote tonight in Massachusetts, and take that vote all the way to the White House,” Romney told his backers. “When I’m president, this American economy will not be lagging behind. This American economy will be leading the world.”
WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller Is At Large
With President Barack Obama facing no competition on the Democratic ballot, voting appeared to be light across the state. Turnout was expected to be higher in communities with more Republican voters.
State election officials had no reports of voting irregularities at the polls.
Romney returned to the state for the first time in months to cast his ballot at a senior center in Belmont, where he and his wife, Ann Romney, own a condominium and raised their family.
“It’s great to be back home,” Mitt Romney told reporters after voting.
Romney said it had been “a couple of months” since he’d been in Massachusetts and he was looking forward to sleeping in his own bed.
Romney’s win was expected. Polls had given him a commanding lead among GOP primary voters.
But those polls show Romney trailing Obama by double digits in a state that has traditionally shunned Republican presidential candidates.
Massachusetts Democrats tried to use Tuesday’s contest to build support for the general election and to take a few whacks at Romney.
Obama campaign officials said volunteers have been conducting training sessions, holding phone banks, canvassing neighborhoods and hosting house parties to reach out to voters as they work to build their campaign infrastructure for November.
Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh said, “Romney may be able to spend his way through the Republican primary, but he can’t write a check big enough to cover the fact that he will say anything to get elected.”
But Republicans are holding out hope that Romney’s strong primary win could open the door to a possible GOP victory in November in Massachusetts.
Romney Addresses The Media In Belmont
Those odds are long.
The last Republican to win Massachusetts in the November presidential election was Ronald Reagan, Obama remains popular and Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick is actively campaigning on Obama’s behalf.
One recent poll found Romney trailing Obama in a head-to-head matchup, with Obama receiving the support of 60 percent of voters, compared with 36 percent for Romney.
Romney’s primary win should deliver to him the bulk, if not all, of the state’s 41 GOP delegates. The state is not winner-take-all, but a candidate needs at least 15 percent of the vote for a chance to pick up any delegates.
Massachusetts Republican voters said they were happy to cast their ballots for Romney, who has pointed to his fiscal management of the state as one of his key campaign selling points.
Dylan Bausemer, of Whitman, voted for Romney in part because he has promised to cut taxes.
“He’s got good business experience. It’s jobs and taxes,” the 50-year-old truck driver said after voting.
The government is too generous, he said.
“We’ve got to get these social programs taken care of,” he said. “It seems like everybody’s got their hand out. Ninety-nine weeks for unemployment? That’s almost two years.”
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Doug Cope reports
Wesley Arning, a 19-year-old student from Wenham, said Romney “seems like the only logical choice” because of his business and political background.
“He’s a different candidate than President Obama,” said Arning, who attends Gordon College. “President Obama was an inspirer. That’s not the case with Romney. I’m voting for him because he’s qualified, because I think he has what it takes. … I can picture him in that office because of what he’s done in the past.”
Some Democrats, even though their candidate faced no competition, made the trek to the polls to give Obama a vote of confidence.
Ann MacDonald, a 79-year-old retired nurse from Whitman, is a registered Democrat who thinks Obama deserves a second term.
“He came up the hard way. He’s made something of himself,” she said after voting. “I know he’s one of the smartest presidents we’ve ever had.”
Republicans don’t understand what it’s like to struggle, she said, noting that several members of her family are looking for work.
“The others (Republicans), I don’t think they care that much about the little people,” she said.
Green Rainbow Party voters were also faced with the choice of three presidential candidates on the Massachusetts ballot: Kent Mesplay, of California; Harley Mikkelson, of Michigan; and Jill Stein, of Massachusetts.
In Massachusetts, only enrolled and independent voters can cast votes in each party’s ballot. Registered Democrats cannot cross lines and vote in a Republican primary.
Associated Press writers Denise Lavoie in Whitman and Jay Lindsay in Wenham contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.