Rick Santorum Projected Winner of Mississippi Primary

on March 13 2012 3:33 PM
Mississippi Republican Primary 2012: Live Coverage, When to Watch
Mississippi Republicans are heading to the polls on Tuesday to cast a vote for a Republican presidential nominee and polls indicate it’s going to be a tight race. Reuters

Rick Santorum is the winner of the Mississippi Republican Primary, media outlets project.

The former Pennsylvania Senator also came in first place in Alabama, sweeping two southern states and defying polls that predicted he would get third.

With 91 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press tallies that Santorum came in first with 33 percent of the vote, Newt Gingrich came in second with 31.3 percent and Mitt Romney came in thrid with 30.2 percent. Ron Paul came in a distant last with 4.4 percent.

Because the race was so close, Mississippi's 37 delegates will be split almost equally among the candidates. The Washington Post reported that Santorum, Gingrich and Romney each will be awarded 10 delegates with 7 left to hand out.

Santorum's Southern win only propells him further into the two-man race with Romney he's been hoping for. Although Gingrich has vowed to soldier on no matter what the results, his narrow lost to Sanotrum in a region that is supposed to be his strength will just crescendo the calls for him to drop out of the race.

Romney had hoped to win Mississippi and Alabama to prove he could connect with more conservative and evangelical voters, a weakness that has dogged him throughout the primary. His loss, although disappointing for his campaign, still won't hurt him too much because he is so many delegates in the lead.

International Business Times live blogged the results. Most recent updates are at the bottom:

7:30 p.m. -- A record number of evangelicals are voting in both the Mississippi and Alabama primaries this year. According to CNN, preliminary exit polls reveal that 81 percent of Mississippi voters were white or born-again Christians, while 19 percent said they were not. 45 percent of Mississippi voters said the religous beliefs of a candidate mattered a lot.

7:40 p.m. -- The Washington Post also has some exit poll data: more than four in ten voters identify themselves as very conservative, which the Post observes is significantly higher than in 2008.

...But beating beating Obama is the most important thing of all Mississippi voters also said they value a candidate's electability over having the right experience, moral character and being a true conservative.

7:56 p.m. -- Get ready for a long night... according to the New York Times' Nate Silver, the Mississippi vote count could be slow. During the 2008 primary, only a third of the votes were counted by 9 p.m. and about 80 percent by midnight.

8:00 p.m. -- Polls have now closed. The counting begins! NBC News says it's still too close to call (but we expected that).

8:10 p.m. -- NYT's Nate Silver also writes that more women are heading to the polls. In 2008, there were more male voters heading to the Mississippi polls but exit poll show this year it's about 50/50.

8:12 p.m. -- This in from MSNBC's Mike O'Brien: RT @mpoindc: Evangelical or born-again Christians compose 83% of MS electorate. Of them, Santorum 33, Romney 32, Gingrich 31.

8:15 p.m. -- According to NYT's Silver, however, Romney has 35 percent of the vote among Mississippi evangelicals, with Gingrich and Santorum at 27 percent.

8:18 p.m. -- Very, very few blacks voted in the Mississippi primary. The Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel reports that 98 percent were white, 1 percent were black, and 1 percent were other. According to the 2010 Census, 37 percent of the population is black.

8:35 p.m. -- The polls closed a half hour ago, and still no counts coming in from Mississippi.

8:40 p.m. -- Two counties have reported its results: Romney, 35.9%; Santorum 23.2%; Gingrich, 25.6%; Paul, 9%.

8:54 p.m. -- Seven counties are in: Santorum 36.9%; Gingrich 30.1%; Romney, 26.7%; Paul 5.4% (Via NYT)

9:06 p.m. -- According to the Associated Press, 6 % of precincts reporting: Romney and Santorum are tied at 32.4%, Gingrich has 28.6%, Paul has 5.6%.

9:17 p.m. -- On CNN: Santorum spokeswoman Alice Stewart said As a son of the south, he should be doing much better than this. (via @jimacostacnn)

9:24 p.m. -- An hour and a half in, only 16% of precincts are reporting: Santorum, 33.5%; Gingrich, 30.5%; Romney, 29.8%; Ron Paul, 5%.

9:46 p.m. -- Things aren't looking so great for Romney, currently in third place with 39% of precincts reporting. The former Massachusetts governor was hoping for success tonight, just prove he can connect to those more conservative, evangelical voters. Total AP tally at this point: Santorum, 32.7%; Gingrich, 30.9%; Romney 30.8%; Paul, 4.5%. Still way too close to call.

9:57 p.m. -- In non-Mississippi news, NBC News projects Santorum the winner of the Alabama Republican primary.

10:00 p.m. -- AP: 60% of precincts reporting, and still too close to call: Santorum, 32.8%; Gingrich, 31.8%; Romney, 30%; Paul, 4.3%. Looks like the Public Policy Polling surveys that put Santorum in third weren't completely accurate.

10:14 p.m. -- Gingrich remains in a steady second place ahead of Romney. AP, with 69% of precincts reporting: Santorum, 32.6%; Gingrich, 31.6%; Romney, 30.3%; Paul, 4.4%.

10:28 p.m. -- Robert Gibbs, a senior advisor to Obama's re-election campaign, said on CNN that the evening was shaping up to be a remarkable night for Rick Santorum. He also said it was a pretty bad night for Mitt Romney and not a great night by any means for Newt Gingrich.

10:34 p.m. -- We did it again, says Santorum on stage in Lafayette, Louisiana.

10:37 p.m. -- Santorum says even though all the polls had him in third, he had faith in all the Mississippi voters he met with passion in their hearts.

10:40 p.m. -- Santorum is painting himself as the underdog, competing against the establishment and all that money. He thanks voters for supporting a coal-miner's son from Pennsylvania.

10:44 p.m. -- With 86% of precincts reporting, the race in Mississippi is still close. AP: Santorum, 33%; Gingrich, 31.4%; Romney, 30.1%.

10:53 p.m. -- Politico and NBC News have declared Rick Santorum the winner of the Mississippi primary.

RELATED: What to Watch for During the Mississippi and Alabama Primaries

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