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Santorum scores crucial wins in Missisipi, Alabama primaries

Last updated on: March 14, 2012 11:46 IST

Santorum scores crucial wins in Missisipi, Alabama primaries

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Lalit K Jha in Washington



Image: Republican United States presidential candidate and former senator Rick Santorum shakes hands with supporters after speaking at his Alabama and Mississippi primary election night rally in Lafayette, Louisiana
Photographs: Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

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'This is what America has all been about'

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"For someone who thinks this race is inevitable, he's spending a whole lot of money against me for being inevitable," Santorum said in his remarks, apparently targetted towards Romney.

"This is a grassroots campaign for President. Who would have ever thought in the age of media that we have in this country today that ordinary folks from across this country can defy the odds day in, day out?" he asked.

"That's what America's always been about," he said. Santorum, a devout Catholic, whose conservative message resonates with evangelical voters, was expected to fare well in the southern contests.

But the results left the third contender Newt Gingrich struggling for survival in the race to pick the Republican who will challenge Obama in the presidential vote.

Gingrich, who had stayed out of most of the Super Tuesday states and the preceding primaries in Arizona and Michigan to focus on a "southern strategy", is left with only two victories -- from his home state of Georgia and neighbouring South Carolina.

"Mr Santorum's victory in Alabama was driven by support among voters who said they were 'very conservative' and from evangelical Christians, who made up nearly 8 in 10 voters, according to exit poll returns," The New York Times said.

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Image: Santorum waves as he addresses supporters at his Alabama and Mississippi primary election night rally in Lafayette, Louisiana
Photographs: Mike Stone/Reuters

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'Time for conservatives to pull together'

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Santorum would now hope the results would sideline Gingrich, and place him as the main contender for Romney who enjoys the virtual backing of the Republican establishment.

Santorum and Gingrich had been dividing the Conservative votes, and the former asked such voters to rally behind him now.

"The time is now for conservatives to pull together. The time is now to make sure, to make sure that we have the best chance to win this election -- and 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," he said.

The New York Times said Romney had stumbled among votersin Alabama who expressed scepticism about his commitment to their conservative values -- nearly half of those who turned out to vote said he was not conservative enough.

"Win bolsters former Pennsylvania Senator's case that he is the favourite of conservatives in all corners of country, and should be sole challenger to front-runner Mitt Romney," The Washington Post said.

The former Pennsylvania Senator, Santorum, attacked the Obama administration for what he called were his "extreme" environmental policies, which had resulted in moratoriums and delays in several places.

"We're seeing gas prices at what are projected to be historic highs, and yet this president almost put this whole region out of business, because of the extreme environmental policies of this administration," he said.


Image: Supporters of Santorum wait for results at Santorum's Alabama and Mississippi primary election night rally in Lafayette
Photographs: Mike Stone/Reuters

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