WINS in South for SANTORUM – WSJ

By at March 14, 2012 | 12:58 am | Print

WINS in South for SANTORUM – WSJ

By PATRICK O’CONNOR And SARA MURRAY

Rick Santorum won the Republican presidential primaries in Alabama and Mississippi Tuesday, solidifying his claim to be the favored candidate of the party’s conservative base and the main challenger to front-runner Mitt Romney.

Rick Santorum, with supporters in Lafayette, La., won primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, boosting his claim to be top rival to Mitt Romney.

Mr. Santorum’s victories will bring new clarity to a race so far marked primarily by the inability of Mr. Romney to overcome resistance from the party’s most conservative voters. A nominating contest that has lasted longer than most expected may enter a new chapter in which Messrs. Romney and Santorum go head-to-head.

Mr. Romney was hoping that he could prove his ability to consolidate the party behind him by scoring an upset win in the Deep South. His campaign argued Tuesday night that the losses wouldn’t diminish Mr. Romney’s lead in the delegate count or ease Mr. Santorum’s path to winning the 1,144 delegates needed to claim the nomination.

“We did it again,” Mr. Santorum told supporters in Louisiana on Tuesday night. He added: “Ordinary folks can defy the odds, day in, day out.”

The results cast a shadow on the candidacy of Newt Gingrich, who was banking on a sweep of the Deep South to carry him to the nomination. He squeaked into a second-place finish in both states, ahead of Mr. Romney—and vowing to stay in the race.

“Newt has given it a great run, but Santorum has earned a mano-a-mano shot at Romney,” said Keith Appell, a Republican strategist who has worked for a long list of conservative candidates.

Exit polls suggested that Mr. Romney struggled to hold two of the groups that have supported him most consistently in prior contests—seniors and wealthier voters. Mr. Romney won a substantial plurality of seniors in Alabama, but Mr. Gingrich drew even with him among older voters in Mississippi.

Rick Santorum’s wins solidified his claim to be the favorite of the party’s conservative base. Above, supporters in Lafayette, La.

More striking, Mr. Santorum bested Mr. Romney among Mississippi voters earning more than $100,000 annually, while the two candidates split that bloc in Alabama.

The surveys of voters at polling places gave a picture of Mr. Romney’s inability to consolidate the party’s most conservative voters. In Alabama, he carried self-described moderate and liberal voters, but he lost the far larger bloc of conservative voters to his two main rivals by double digits, according to exit polls released by media outlets. The picture was slightly less pronounced in Mississippi.

Mr. Santorum showed particular strength among voters who called themselves “very conservative” and among evangelical Christians, who accounted for eight in 10 voters in Mississippi and nearly three-quarters of voters in Alabama. Those groups have supported him strongly in many prior contests.

Voters who said that a candidate’s religious beliefs mattered “a great deal” sided overwhelmingly with Mr. Santorum—a measure of resistance to the race’s sole Mormon candidate, Mr. Romney. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley had said this week that Mr. Romney’s faith “probably” presented a “subtle” problem for him in that state and others.

While he lags behind Mr. Romney in the delegate fight, the win will give Mr. Santorum a momentum boost that could also spur an influx of cash.

via Santorum Wins Alabama, Mississippi Primaries – WSJ.com.

Commentary Election 2012 Featured General Mitt Romney News Newt Gingrich Politics Rick Santorum , , , , ,

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Featuring Recent Posts WordPress Widget development by YD