Elections 2012: Rick Santorum Wins Alabama and Mississippi Primaries

NEW YORK | Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 2:18am EDT

Rick Santorum swept to victory in Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday night and became the undead candidate for president.

Elections 2012 Rick Santorum Wins Alabama and Mississippi Primaries 01

Republican Rick Santorum won a pair of crucial Deep South primaries on Tuesday, taking control of the party's conservative wing in the presidential race and dealing a severe setback to rival Newt Gingrich. Photo: Holley St. Germain/Flickr

Rick Santorum became a winner of the Alabama and Mississippi primaries on Tuesday, overcoming the financial advantages of Mitt Romney and the Southern allegiances to Newt Gingrich, tells The New York Times.

With 98 percent of the votes counted, Rick Santorum won 33 percent in Mississippi to 31 percent for Gingrich and 30 percent for Romney.

In Alabama, Santorum won 35 percent of the votes and Gingrich and Romney each had 29 percent, according to Reuters.

“We did it again,” Mr. Santorum said to the cheerful crowd of his supporters in Louisiana, the state that holds its Republican primary next week. “The time is now for conservatives to pull together.”

“We will compete everywhere,” Santorum said. “The time is now for conservatives to pull together. If we nominate a conservative we will beat Barack Obama.”

Tuesday victory is exactly the kind of victory Santorum had needed. He beat Romney and Gingrich in a high-stakes match that all three candidates were badly trying to win.

Newt Gingrich, who had hoped to revitalize his sagging campaign for the Republican presidential nomination with wins in the Southern states, came in a disappointing second in Mississippi and Alabama on Tuesday despite spending a lot of money and time into the two states.

Santorum’s win now creates pressure on Gingrich to drop out, reports The Huff Post. Gingrich said that a second-place finish in Mississippi and Alabama “wasn’t as much as we wanted.” But he also vowed to stay in the race.

“The elite media’s efforts to convince the nation that Mitt Romney is inevitable just collapsed,” Gingrich said to a crowd in Birmingham. “If you’re the front-runner and you keep coming in third, you’re not much of a front-runner.”

Santorum and Gingrich pushed the former Massachusetts governor into third place in both states, thus damaging his attempts to declare that the contest to find a challenger for President Barack Obama is effectively over, tells The Telegraph.

Nevertheless, Mr Romney said that despite his defeats, he would be increasing his collection of delegates to August’s party convention.

“I am pleased that we will be increasing our delegate count in a very substantial way after tonight,” Romney said in a statement. “With the delegates won tonight, we are even closer to the nomination.”

After the Mississippi and Alabama results Romney had 472 delegates to Santorum’s 244, Gingrich’s 127 and 47 for Rep. Ron Paul.

A candidate has to reach 1,144 delegates to clinch the nomination, and it’s possible that none of them can reach that number before Tampa.

“As far as Romney’s concerned, he’s going to get about a third of the delegates tonight,” Republican strategist Rich Galen said. “They can keep doing this all the way until June and the delta between he and Santorum gets wider and wider and the time to catch up gets narrower and narrower.”

Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania votes on April 24, but even an enormous win  there would not give him enough delegates to really contend with Romney.

“After tonight this is going to be a two-man race. It’s going to be Rick and Mitt, and we’re going to clear the field and Rick’s got a good shot down the road,” said Alice Stewart, Santorum spokeswoman , on CNN.

The forth Republican presidential contender, Texas congressman Ron Paul, largely skipped the Alabama and Mississippi contests to focus on later states.

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