Santorum deals blow to Romney in Mississippi, Alabama

Rick Santorum

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum today took home Alabama and Mississippi in another crucial round of primaries to pick Barack Obama's contender, dealing a blow to front-runner Mitt Romney's hopes of making a mark in southern America's Conservative bastions.

With more than three-fourths of the votes counted, Santorum had polled 35 per cent of the total votes in Alabama, while Newt Gingrich had got 30 per cent, and Romney 28 per cent.

In neighbouring Mississippi, it was a close three-way fight, and with more than 95 per cent of the votes counted, Santorum had polled 33 per cent, followed by Gingrich at 30 per cent and Romney 28 per cent.

"We did it again," Santorum said in his victory speech in Louisiana, another deeply conservative state which holds a March 24 primary.

The defeat was a setback to Romney and showed that he was still struggling to win over the Conservatives, despite being much better funded and having superior campaign organisation.

"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 targeted 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.

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