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Rick Santorum projected to win in Alabama, holding on to narrow lead in Mississippi

Rick Santorum is on a roll. Less than one hundred hours after decisively winning the Kansas Republican caucuses, he appears to have swept tonight’s contests in the Deep South, despite having to share the conservative vote with Newt Gingrich:

Rick Santorum scored a pair of primary victories in Alabama and Mississippi, according to network projections, bolstering his credibility as Mitt Romney’s top challenger and denying the former Massachusetts governor an opportunity to solidify his status as inevitable nominee.

“We did it again,” Santorum declared at an election night rally in Louisiana, saying his underdog campaign was about “ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

The races were among the first high profile contests in which both Newt Gingrich and Santorum, who have alternated wildly between surges and collapses, were competitive at once.

Santorum’s twin victories tonight will unquestionably bolster his campaign in a big way. Up until just a few hours ago, Santorum has only been able to win in states from one region – the Midwest. (He gave Mitt Romney a run for his money in Michigan and Ohio, but couldn’t quite close with voters in either state). By winning in Mississippi and Alabama, he has managed to strengthen his own candidacy whilst simultaneously ruining Newt Gingrich’s plans for a comeback.

Gingrich needed to win in both Alabama and Mississippi tonight to keep his campaign alive. He didn’t. He can choose to stay in the race if he likes, but he won’t be able to compete with Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. He might be able to cause enough trouble for Rick Santorum to ensure that Romney ends up getting the nomination, but he himself isn’t going to end up as the nominee.

As of around 8:30 PM Pacific; here were the results in Alabama’s Republican primary (twenty-two of sixty-seven counties completely reporting):

Michelle Bachmann
0.27% 1,178
Newt Gingrich
29.45% 127,692
Jon Huntsman
0.18% 765
Ron Paul
5.09% 22,084
Rick Perry
0.28% 1,226
Mitt Romney
29.26% 126,845
Rick Santorum
33.92% 147,059
Uncommitted
1.54% 6,676

And in Missisippi, as of 8:30 PM Pacific, with 1,800 of 1,889 precincts reporting:

Newt Gingrich
31% 86,068
Ron Paul
4% 12,160
Mitt Romney
30% 83,278
Rick Santorum
33% 90,386

Incidentally, in Mississippi, the political parties themselves run the primaries – meaning that Democratic and Republican activists serve as poll workers and election supervisors. However, the Magnolia State’s primaries are open, so voters may participate without having to register in advance as a member of a particular political party. Alabama also has an open primary.

Over at FreeRepublic, one of the Internet’s best-known right wing message boards, the mood seems to be celebratory. Here’s a sampling of the comments left in response to the news that Santorum is projected to win Alabama and Mississippi:

I’m a Newt supporter, but if this pans out, I really think Newt ought to put his support behind Santorum and we supporters can hope/expect Newt to get a good cabinet position to effect change once elected.

risen_feenix

Newt looks like an dolt standing next to his wife while she talks. No WAY can he win no matter what! He should endorse Santorum.

RightLady

Conventional wisdom had Rick showing up 2nd or 3rd tonight. Not anything like this. The D.C. Beltway types are very unhappy tonight.

LazloinPA

Newt REALLY needs to pick party over ego. He’s not polling well in any state that’s left. I am sure he feels he can win a brokered convention, and the chance of that is unlikely. Very unlikely as the GOP supports Mittens, and writes the rules. Newt knows this…

JohnD9207

Congrats Rick.

Looks like the two races wasn’t quite close enough for Rove, Boss Hogg and the GOPe [sic] to steal, like they did in Ohio.

It also appears that Newt’s Southern Strategy has failed. Even though he had tons of money from that Casino Owner.

tennmountainman

Judging by the comments excerpted above, it seems Rick Santorum has solidified his base of support and is starting to win over Newt Gingrich’s fans as well. Santorum really needs Gingrich to quit the race so that he can go head to head with Romney in the states that haven’t held their nominating events yet.

But Gingrich has given no indication that he is thinking about quitting. At least not yet. Maybe if his sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson decides to turn off Gingrich’s cash spigot, Gingrich will decide to throw in the towel. We’ll see.

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  1. By Morning Rundown for March 14th, 2012 on March 14th, 2012 at 9:39 AM

    [...] Rick Santorum projected to win in Alabama, holding on to narrow lead in Mississippi [...]