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County’s Republicans peg Romney as easy winner in Presidential Primary

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CANTON - Pollsters and politicos pegged Mitt Romney as the winner of the New York presidential primary long before polls closed Tuesday night.

And, as expected, Mr. Romney cruised to an easy victory in St. Lawrence County outpolling his nearest foe by a nearly three-to-one margin.

“The Republicans of St. Lawrence County have chosen Mitt Romney for their candidate as president,” St. Lawrence County Republican Chair Nancy K. Martin said.

With 89 of 102 precincts reporting late Tuesday night, Mr. Romney led the field with 699 votes, more than 200 votes ahead of his three opponents’ combined total. Ron Paul earned 252 votes, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 129, and Rick Santorum, 111, rounded out the GOP field on a day when over nine of every 10 registered Republicans in the county did not cast a ballot.

Despite not winning the county, Mr. Paul did have a strong showing, finishing in second place by a near two-to-one margin ahead of Mr. Gingrich and a more than two-to-one margin over Mr. Santorum, who has dropped out of the race.

Ms. Martin said she was not surprised by the support for the Texas Republican in the primary.

“I’m not surprised by Ron Paul’s strong showing,” she said. “Throughout the winter I received a number of calls from people supporting him.”

There are 21,138 registered Republicans in St. Lawrence County, according to Thomas A. Nichols, county Board of Elections Republican commissioner. There were 5,445 Republicans who turned out for the last Republican presidential primary in 2008.

The Board of Elections issued 495 absentee ballots for the primary, and had received 286 back by Tuesday afternoon.

In the city of Ogdensburg and the town of Oswegatchie, support for Mr. Romney was mostly enthusiastic but tempered by some with stinging rebuke of President Obama.

“I voted for Romney,” said Kenneth C. Hale, 700 Proctor Ave., as he left the Ogdensburg polling place at the Dobisky Center on Riverside Avenue. “I’d vote for a chihuahua before I voted for Obama. For the first time in my life, I’m afraid for this country.”

Mr. Hale said what he likes most about Mr. Romney is his “non-apologetic” stance as a success in the private sector.

“I just like him because he’s a businessman,” he said.

Charles Johnson, of 711 Riverside Ave., also likes “the experienced businessman” in Mr. Romney.

“I’m very disillusioned with our current president,” he said. “Everything he says he turns around and does something else.”

John J. Gilbert, of 708 Elizabeth St., wasn’t so caustic in his view of the president. But he was no less final in his dismissal.

Besides, he said, Romney is already the clear presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

“Romney’s going to win anyway,” he said. “We have got to have a change in this country. A stronger foreign policy and a stronger military.”

Down Route 812 at the Heuvelton Fire Department, George M. Gilmour, town of Oswegatchie, sat in his pickup truck after he voted and explained his choice of Mr. Romney.

“I didn’t vote for the man I wanted, but I voted anyway,” he said.

Mr. Gilmour said he favored Mr. Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. John D. McCulloch, of Route 37, town of Oswegatchie, was plain-spoken in his support of the former Massachusetts governor.

“I like Mitt,” he said. “He’s middle of the road.”

Although Mr. Romney may already be a lock for the Republican nomination, that didn’t deter some local voters, who said it was important to exercise their right as an American citizen - and voice their disapproval of President Barack Obama.

“We’ve got to replace the one we’ve got,” Joe D. Cordwell of Massena said of Mr. Obama. “You’ve got to cast your vote for somebody.”

Ms. Martin agreed and said she thought Mr. Romney was the best candidate to defeat Mr. Obama and bring Republicans the White House once again.

“We have a strong candidate to defeat President Obama in the November election,” she said, adding she’s anticipating a united convention this summer.

“We will have a unified convention in August in Tampa,” she said. “We look forward to having Mr. Romney at the helm.”

Mr. Cordwell said Americans should exercise every opportunity they can to vote, even if Mr. Romney was the presumed nominee. He voted for Mr. Romney because of his business experience.

“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain, as my father used to say,” he said. “We get what we ask for because not enough people go out and vote.”

Earl. E. Cunningham of Massena said Mr. Romney seemed to be the best candidate who could face Mr. Obama this fall. He had heard Mr. Romney would win before he traveled to the Massena Community Center to cast his vote. But he said it doesn’t matter whether a primary is closely contested or a landslide.

“As a citizen, it’s my duty to vote,” he said. “Even if it’s obvious, I want to still vote too.”

Mr. Cunningham did not approve of Mr. Obama’s health care plan.

“The way we’re headed, its not good,” he said.

Staff writers Brian Hayden and Benny Fairchild contributed to this report

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