Rick Santorum Sweeps Southern Primaries

Mitt Romney places third in Mississippi and Alabama after failing to woo conservative voters.

At this point, Mitt Romney is probably starting to feel like Al Pacino’s character in “The Godfather III”: Every time he thinks he’s out, they pull him right back in. After posting solid victories last week on Super Tuesday, 
 the former Massachusetts governor was dealt another serious setback on Tuesday when he came in third place in the Alabama and Mississippi primaries.

Proving once again that he has a strong appeal to the traditional conservative base of the party, not to mention some Southern strength, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum swept the day, winning Alabama with 34.5 percent of the vote and Mississippi with 32.9 percent. Newt Gingrich was just behind in each, polling at 29.3 percent in Alabama and 31.3 percent in Mississippi, edging out Romney in both. The ex-governor, who has the overall delegate lead and has been saying he has built up an insurmountable lead over his rivals, pulled 29 percent of the vote in Alabama and 30.3 percent in Mississippi.

If it was any consolation, Romney easily won the Hawaii caucus, where 20 delegates were at stake, and the caucus in American Samoa, where he took six delegates and three superdelegates.

“We did it again. The time is now for conservatives to pull together,” Santorum told supporters, telling them that “the best chance to win this election is to nominate a conservative to go up against Barack Obama, who can take him on on every issue.”

Romney vastly outspent Santorum in an effort to prove he could win with the traditionally conservative voters who don’t appear to have been won over to the cause yet. And despite calls from Romney to drop out and ease his path to the nomination after a vicious, contentious primary battle that appears to have no end in sight, Santorum’s wins bolstered his resolve to push forward. Also once again vowing to stay in the hunt was Gingrich, who repeated his desire to fight until the Republican National Convention in August.

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

Now past the halfway mark in the primary season, the picture has become no clearer, with Romney playing down his latest losses and focusing on the bigger picture. “We will be increasing our delegate count in a very substantial way after tonight,” said Romney in a statement on a night when he didn’t give a traditional victory rally for his followers. “We are even closer to the nomination.”

According to The New York Times, Romney has amassed 495 delegates to date to Santorum’s 252, Gingrich’s 131 and Congressman Ron Paul’s 48; 1,144 are needed to secure the nomination.

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