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LAFAYETTE, LA - MARCH 13: Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum addresses supporters after winning the both Alabama and Mississippi primaries on March 13, 2012 in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Rick Santorum took home big wins Alabama and Mississippi yesterday, with Newt Gingrich coming in second and Romney taking third in both contests. It was a huge boost to Santorum’s campaign, although not much of a hit math-wise for Romney.
Santorum’s momentum was strong going into the races and even stronger coming out of them. He’s proving that the establishment candidate, that many assumed had a straight shot at the nomination, may not have the support of the party faithful behind him.
Romney, in spite of his professed love for cheesy grits, doesn’t appear to be a candidate the south in willing the swallow, but whether or not they like him is beside the point. The fact is he’s got twice the delegates as Santorum, and picked up even more last night. He’s also running a tight ship with all the organization and money that Santorum lacks. Going into big races in Missouri and Illinois Romney has the edge but Santorum’s grass roots appeal is hard to deny.
The biggest loser last night was former house speaker Newt Gingrich. He needed to make a big showing in the south to keep his campaign viable but that didn’t happen. Calls for him to drop out are growing louder but it’s unlikely he’ll listen. He’s promised supporters that they’ll see him in Tampa.
Will Santorum be able to turn this thing into a two-man race? Can Romney recapture (or capture in the first place) the base? And what’s next for Gingrich? Will donors keep giving him money even as it becomes less and less likely that he’ll take the nomination?
Mark Barabak, Political Writer, Los Angeles Times, joining us from Illinois, which is the next big contest