Santorum Wins Alabama, Mississippi; Gingrich Takes Second

BY Christina Bellantoni  March 13, 2012 at 9:57 PM EDT

GOP hopeful Rick Santorum greets patrons at Dreamland Bar-B-Que on Monday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

GOP hopeful Rick Santorum greets patrons at Dreamland Bar-B-Que on Monday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Updated 12:28 a.m. ET Wednesday | Rick Santorum on Tuesday night scored a pair of victories in Alabama’s and Mississippi’s presidential primaries, underscoring the likelihood of a protracted battle for the Republican nomination.

The former Pennsylvania senator addressed a crowd of supporters in Lafayette, La., after he was the projected winner in Alabama’s primary. “We’re campaigning everywhere there are delegates because we are going to win this nomination before the convention,” he told the crowd, saying he was headed to Puerto Rico for two days of campaigning there.

Speaking in Alabama, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich congratulated Santorum on his wins while taking a swipe at fellow Republican Mitt Romney.

“If you’re the frontrunner and keep coming in third, you’re not much of a frontrunner,” he said.

You can view all the results in our Vote 2012 Map Center.

In Alabama (results here), exit polls suggested Romney only won voters who were 65 or older. Like other primaries, Santorum won the most conservative voters, and Romney won the wealthiest and best-educated voters.

In Mississippi (results here), exit polls showed that the trio was splitting most of the demographic groups, with Romney performing slightly better than he was in Alabama.

In both states, Santorum was winning voters who found the most important candidate quality to be “true conservative” or “strong moral character,” and Romney did best among voters who were looking for the candidate most likely to defeat President Obama.

Gingrich, who had dubbed the states must-wins as he faced calls to step aside to boost Santorum’s chances, was suffering with female voters.

Gingrich adviser Randy Evans and political director Martin Baker outlined their candidate’s path forward in a memo for the campaign staff.

They argue the Louisiana primary March 24 is “halftime” in the race for the nomination.

“Yet by halftime, the process will be far from over. Just look at the math,” they wrote.

“[W]ith 4 candidates remaining, the GOP nomination now moves into unchartered (sic) waters with history in the making,” and the pace ahead “favors Newt,” the staffers argued.

The duo walked through the contests on the calendar, and noted that Wisconsin, which votes April 3, is Callista Gingrich’s home state. They note there’s a plethora of unbound delegates who could be free to choose the Republican of their choice at the convention.

“The bottom-line reality: this nomination will not be decided until the fourth quarter – and that is not until June,” they wrote, adding, “It is a long way until June 26th” when the Utah primary concludes the nominating season.

Earlier Tuesday, Team Romney argued it was “yet another day that our opponents will be unable to make up the ground needed to get to 1,144 delegates,” and boasted the former Massachusetts governor was looking like he would win more delegates after caucuses in Hawaii and American Samoa.

Dave Gustafson contributed to this report.

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