Romney/ McCain
Mitt Romney concedes to John McCain in 2008  (Reuters)

According to new data gathered by AP and the New York Times, Mitt Romney is doing just fractionally better vote-for-vote in this year's primary race than four years ago when he was thrashed by eventual Republican winner John McCain.

The figures show that he has won slightly more votes this year, giving credence to the claims of his nearest rivals - Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum - that he can still be beaten. His total for the eight states that have chosen this year is 1,180,931, compared to 1,038,580 in at the same point in 2008.

In five states (Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri), Romney received fewer votes this time around than he did in 2008.

More worrying for the former governor of Massachusetts is the amount of money that has been spent on his campaign since he announced his candidacy in May 2011. Romney has spent over $37.2m (£23.6m) in eight states since the primary season began last month, largely on a negative ad campaign in Florida.

His expenditure has already eclipsed that of McCain in 2008, when the Arizona senator spent $11m on the entire Republican race across all 50 states.

So far, Romney has secured just 90 delegates (out of 179) and needs 1,144 to win.

Romney's campaign suffered a major setback in the mosr recent contests when former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum celebrated shock wins in all three states across Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri.

Vote chart
The chart shows that Romney actually lost votes in many of the early states. (

Before those contests, Romney appeared on track for the nomination, with Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, as his main rival.

The latest results show that Romney is still struggling to win over the bulk of conservatives who make up the bedrock of the Republican Party.

Gingrich's weak showing, combined with Santorum's success, has now made it unclear who the top rival is in the race for the Republican nomination.