Primaries reflect conservative enthusiasm for 2012

KASIE HUNT Associated Press Published:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a show of conservative enthusiasm, a tea-party backed Republican vanquished six-term Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar in a GOP primary and North Carolina voters decided overwhelmingly to strengthen their state's gay marriage ban.

Republican Mitt Romney, who long has been viewed skeptically by the GOP's base, won three presidential primaries to move closer to clinching the nomination of a party that remains sharply divided between its establishment and right flanks.

The nation's polarized environment was on display in Tuesday contests scattered across several states six months before Americans choose whether to give Democratic President Barack Obama another four years.

That was especially true in Lugar's unsuccessful effort to beat back a challenge from Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock. He had painted the Republican senator as too moderate for the conservative state.