Conservatives voters in the Alabama and Mississippi primaries split their vote between Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, sparing Mitt Romney a potentially lopsided defeat. But long term, the delegate math still appears to be in his favor.
It’s now a two-man race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Rick Santorum’s sweep of the Alabama and Mississippi primaries has solidified the former Pennsylvania senator’s position as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney – and ensured that the GOP nomination race will extend long into the spring, if not all the way to the party convention in August.
The big question is whether Newt Gingrich of Georgia – who came in second in both primaries despite his Southern roots – will stay in the race or step aside to allow the non-Romney vote to consolidate. On Tuesday night, the former House speaker showed no sign he was ready to give up.
Another question is whether Mr. Romney, who failed to manage expectations for his performance in the Deep South, will shake up his campaign team in a bid to reassure donors. The Michigan-born former governor of Massachusetts had predicted he would win Alabama, even as he established that the Southern contests were an “away game” for him.
Romney’s losses were mitigated by victories in the Hawaii and American Samoa caucuses and the fact that all four of Tuesday’s contests will award delegates on a proportional basis. He came in a close third in Mississippi and Alabama, fewer than 3 percentage points behind Mr. Santorum in Mississippi and 5.5 points in Alabama.
The delegate math still favors Romney, a point he emphasized in a statement late Tuesday.