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Santorum beats Romney in Louisiana

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RECOMMENDED: Why Rick Santorum has only a 1 percent chance of stopping Mitt Romney

Early exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks showed that Santorum's win in Louisiana was one of his strongest performances to date among conservatives, working class voters, and those calling the economy their top issue. And he continued his dominance among white evangelical voters and those looking for a candidate who shares their religious beliefs.

As in previous Southern states, Romney's best showing came among those voters with annual incomes above $100,000 and those who prioritized a candidate's ability to defeat President Barack Obama in November.

The bad economy was the top issue for Louisiana voters. Most were gloomy about prospects for a recovery, saying they felt the economy was getting worse instead of better. While some national surveys suggest Americans are feeling optimistic about economic improvement, just one in eight Republican primary voters said they thought a recovery was under way.

Santorum badly needed a rebound after a decisive Illinois loss to Romney earlier in the week that moved party stalwarts to rally around the front-runner. Many urged Santorum and Gingrich to drop out of the race.

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