Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum revitalized his presidential campaign Tuesday with victories in primaries in Alabama and Mississippi.
Santorum continues to trail former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in the overall delegate count for the Republican nomination, but it is likely that the race will go on indefinitely.
Rick Santorum’s narrow victories in the two southern primaries enhance his position as the main conservative alternative to Romney in the Republican race. “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 and day out?” He asked.
Santorum’s success comes at the expense of former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich. Gingrich finished a disappointing second in both Alabama and Mississippi, and likely will face calls from some Republicans to quit the race and let Santorum take on Romney alone.
Gingrich told supporters he’s determined to stay in the race all the way to the party nominating convention in August in Tampa, Florida. “I emphasize going to Tampa because one of the things tonight proved is that the elite media’s effort to convince the nation that Mitt Romney is inevitable [as the nominee] just collapsed,” he said.
It was also a disappointing night for Mitt Romney, even though he did win contests in Hawaii and American Samoa, and remains the leader in the overall delegate count by a 2-1 margin over Santorum.
Romney already was campaigning in Missouri, which votes on Saturday, and he kept his focus on President Barack Obama, a Democrat, saying “this president is out of ideas and he is out of excuses, and so in 2012 we have got to make sure that he is out of office. That is your job.”
Analysts said the latest results in the Republican race show that Romney still struggles to win over the base of the Republican Party, social and religious conservatives, especially in the southern states.
Henry Olsen, vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, said, “Romney has not been able to persuade the hardcore social conservatives and the hardcore conservative activists that he is an acceptable candidate. He doesn’t need their love. What he needs is their support.”
Larry Sabato directs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. He said, “Maybe it is that Republicans are trying to send a message to Mitt Romney and making him endure these weekly battles because they don’t believe that he truly believes in the conservative principles that they embrace. They are trying to drum those principles into his head.”
Republican Party leaders have generally endorsed Romney and would like to see the long and divisive primary campaign end soon so that the party can unify and take on President Obama in November.
It takes 1,144 delegates to secure the Republican nomination. The latest Associated Press delegate count puts Romney at about 500 while Santorum has about half that amount. Gingrich and Texas Congressman Ron Paul trail well behind.
Most of the remaining Republican contests will allocate delegates on a proportional basis, and that means the race could drag on for months or possibly all the way to the Republican convention in late August.