Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney won his party's primary in Kentucky on Tuesday and took a commanding lead in Arkansas, as he got closer to clinching the GOP nomination, official tallies showed.
The largely ceremonial victory by Romney came as the Democratic primaries saw President Barack Obama lose some voters to a mostly unknown candidate in Arkansas and the ballot option "uncommitted" in Kentucky, in an apparent sign of voter dissatisfaction with Obama in those conservative Southern states.
Romney had 69 percent of the vote with 40 of 75 Arkansas counties reporting. He was trailed by Texas congressman Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, each with 13 percent, returns from the Secretary of State's Office showed.
In Kentucky, Romney polled 67 percent with all but one of 120 counties reporting. Paul had 13 percent and Santorum 9 percent of the vote, results from the Kentucky State Board of Elections showed.
Paul has stopped actively campaigning. Santorum has suspended his campaign and endorsed Romney.
Romney has all but secured the Republican presidential nomination, winning 989 delegates, not including the Arkansas and Kentucky primaries, according to Real Clear Politics. His next closest rival Santorum had 259.
A candidate needs 1,144 delegates to win the nomination. There are 45 delegates at stake in Kentucky and 36 in Arkansas, but neither is a winner-take-all state.
In the Democratic primary in Arkansas, President Barack Obama had 61 percent of the vote with 40 of 75 counties reporting and rival John Wolfe, a Tennessee attorney, had 39 percent, results showed.
"Arkansas is a state that is ready-made for a strong protest vote against the president," said Jay Barth, a political science professor at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas.
"Many conservatives still participate in Democratic primaries in the South and most of these voters did not vote for the president in 2008 and will not vote for him this fall," Barth said. "This primary just gave them another opportunity to vote against the president."
Obama did not face an opponent in Kentucky. He pulled in 58 percent of the vote, while 42 percent of voters marked "uncommitted" on their ballots.
Barth, who is a scholar of Southern politics, said that Kentucky voters mirror those in Arkansas.
"These are states that won't be relevant to the (presidential) electoral battle in the fall," Barth said.
In Arkansas' only open Congressional seat, three Democrats and three Republicans vied for their party nomination.
Arkansas Representative Mike Ross, a leader in the "Blue Dog" coalition of conservative and moderate Democrats, announced last year that he would not seek re-election after six terms.
Republican candidate Tom Cotton, who served as an infantry officer in both Iraq and Afghanistan, had 55 percent of the vote with a majority of counties reporting, according to official results.
On the Democratic side, state Senator Gene Jeffress and attorney Q. Byrum Hurst could be headed for a June run-off as both remained under 50 percent in early returns.