Mitt Romney took a huge step towards becoming the Republican Party's presidential nominee after a convincing set of results on Super Tuesday.
The former private equity tycoon and governor won in his home state of Massachusetts as well as in Idaho, Vermont, Virginia and Alaska.
"The base of the Republican Party they don't just want to beat Obama. They hate him. They want him erased from history books .… And they want a candidate who has that level of anger and antipathy towards Obama. Santorum and Gingrich feel that way but Romney just wants the job, he doesn't hate Obama and that's one of the reasons he's not connecting with voters."
- Jason Johnson, a political science professor
Romney also came out on top in the crucial swing state, Ohio.
But close behind him in Ohio was his rival Rick Santorum, who is also confident he still has a shot at the nomination after securing wins in Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota.
For some it was a do or die moment.
Newt Gingrich will feel slightly more emboldened having won his home state of Georgia as expected, but Ron Paul's future is unclear after a disappointing night.
Most importantly for Romney, he now has a commanding lead in the all-important delegate count.
But there was no knockout blow. In fact, far from settling matters, nearly all the candidates will feel they gained enough from Super Tuesday to continue their race.
Analysts, however, argue that a long drawn-out primary season will hurt the eventual nominee, to the benefit of Barack Obama, the US president.
A candidate wins delegates in each state's primary or caucus, and winning 1,144 delegates means securing the party's presidential nomination.
"All things being equal there are very few who would say he [Romney] is an unacceptable Republican nominee. But there are quite a few … 30, 40, 50 per cent who would prefer a more conservative candidate… they just haven't been able to settle on one."
- Mark Blumenthal, The Huffington Post senior polling editor
Romney is reportedly leading the nomination race with 415 delegates, more than all of his rivals combined. Santorum is second with 176 and Gingrich has 105.
But there is still plenty of time to catch up with Romney, especially for Santorum, as nominating contests are scheduled until the end of June.
The next primaries are in the southern states, which boast conservative Christian voters - a group that favours Santorum.
Kansas votes on Saturday, while there are also votes in Alabama and Mississippi next Tuesday. Missouri will vote later this month. All have an overwhelming number of voters who identify themselves as evangelicals.
April will see votes in populous states such as New York and Pennsylvania. But Texas and California - with a combined 327 delegates - offer the biggest prizes.
So, what have we learned from Super Tuesday?
To discuss this on Inside Story: US 2012 with presenter Anand Naidoo are: Mark Blumenthal, the senior polling editor of The Huffington Post; Chris Henick, a Republican strategist and former senior adviser to Rudy Giuliani's presidential committee; and Jason Johnson, a political science professor at Hiram University in Ohio.
"This nomination is not going to be handed to anyone. It is going to have to be earned even the hard way. This is really a delegate game. Romney has roughly 60 per cent of what's selected already. So whatever he's doing it's working to his advantage despite the small numbers."
Chris Henick, a former White House political adviser
Source: Al Jazeera