Mitt Romney consolidated his position as front-runner in the race for Republican nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in the November 6 election, sweeping away all the 20 delegates in Puerto Rican primary.

The former Massachusetts governor secured more than 83.4 per cent of the vote, according to the State Elections Commission, or CEEPR, in the U.S. territory.

Mr. Santorum, the former Pennsylvania Senator, was a distant second with 7.7 per cent of the votes, while Newt Gingrich, former Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives, had just two per cent of the votes.

Puerto Rico win helped him cross the 500 delegate mark.

With this victory, Romney now has 521 delegates, while Santorum has 253, Newt Gingrich 136 and Ron Paul 50.

However, U.S. media said Mr. Romney still has a long way to go to bag the party’s nomination. “Romney’s win in Puerto Rico gives him a small boost heading into next Tuesday’s pivotal Midwestern primary in Illinois, and Saturday’s Louisiana contest,” The Hill reported.

“As primaries go, Puerto Rico’s is not the most critical. There were only 100,000 registered Republicans in the state as of the 2000 election; the primary was open to all voters. Residents cannot vote in the general election. But in what’s becoming a delegate race between Romney and Santorum, every little bit counts,” The Washington Post reported.

“As the Republican race deepens into a fight for every delegate, the Romney campaign pointed to Puerto Rico as the latest sign of strength over Rick Santorum. Romney was defeating Santorum by a wide margin in the United States territory, which has 20 delegates,” The New York Times said.

The Republican rivals have now set their sights on Illinois, where 69 delegates are at stake tomorrow and then to Louisiana on the weekend, which provides 18 pledged delegates.

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