Rick Santorum scored two more surprise victories last night with wins in Alabama and Mississippi. Polls leading up to the vote projected victories for Mitt Romney and/or Newt Gingrich, with reports earlier in the day indicating that exit polls showed Romney taking Mississippi. Santorum won both states at the end of a night, which will heighten speculation about a brokered Republican convention in August.
The RealClearPolitics poll average had Gingrich barely ahead of Romney in Alabama by only 0.2%, and the last poll in Mississippi had him leading by 2%. One poll found Romney ahead in Alabama by 2%. One poll earlier in March had Romney winning Mississippi by 8%. None showed Santorum winning.
Yet, he won Alabama with 34.6%, about 5 points ahead of Gingrich (29.3%) and Romney (28.9%). Ron Paul only received 5% of the vote. Santorum won Mississippi with 32.9%, about 1.5 points ahead of Gingrich (31.3%). Romney came in third with 30.3% and Paul in fourth with 4.4%.
As things stand now, Romney is projected to have 474 delegates. That is a huge lead over Santorum with 228, Gingrich with 137 and Paul with 64.
Santorum opened up his victory speech with, “We did it again.” The objective of his speech was to counter the perception that it is inevitable that Romney will be the Republican nominee. He said that he “spent a whole lot of money against me for someone who is inevitable.” He argued against Romney’s electability, saying that only a genuine conservative can defeat President Obama.
Some experts feel that it is nearly impossible for Santorum to get the 1,144 delegates needed to take the nomination. Santorum predicts that he will win the nomination at the convention. He says “it will be very difficult for anyone to get to the number of delegates that is necessary to win with the majority at the convention.” His campaign argues that Romney would lose in a brokered convention because “he will have a very hard time getting his moderate supporters elected as delegates in these convention systems.”
Newt Gingrich’s strategy is essentially the same. Before the vote, he said he wants to stop Romney from reaching 1,144 delegates so there can be a 60-day period between the primaries and the convention in late August about who the nominee should be. In an interview with FOX News Channel’s Bret Baier last night, he floated the possibility that an entirely new candidate could become the nominee if that were to happen. His campaign originally said it had to win both states in order to remain in the contest.
He began his speech by reminding the audience that the delegates are allocated proportionally and vowing to stay in the race until the very end. He declared that the “elite media’s narrative that Mitt Romney is inevitable just collapsed.” He said that Romney cannot defeat Obama in a debate because of his health care plan.
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