Santorum Delivers One-Two Punch to Romney, Taking 2 States 

A surprisingly good night for the second-place runner who had supposedly been at the "desperate end" of his campaign.

This clearly isn't over by a long shot.

Delivering a double-blow to Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum won a brace of victories in Alabama and Mississippi tonight, upending the latest conventional wisdom of the race and confirming yet again that Romney has yet even today to persuade most Republican voters to support him.

With 96 percent of the vote counted, Santorum was proejcted the winner of a tight three-way race in the Magnolia State, according to figures cited on air by CNN.

Exit polls cited on air by the broadcaster showed that voters the Mississippi primary had been dominated by religious conservatives. Eighty-one percent of voters in Mississippi described themselves as evangelical, born-again Christians (the highest of any contest) and of these, 32 percent had supported Romney, 32 percent had supported Santorum and 31 percent had supported Gingrich.

In announcing Santorum's Mississippi victory, The New York Times said the immediate question for Gingrich was whether he would drop out of the race.

However, in an address carried live by CNN, Gingrich appeared to suggest that Romney's failure to win meant he was also a viable candidate.

"Elite media's effort to convince the nation that Mitt Romney is inevitable just collapsed," he said. "If you're the front-runner and you keep coming in third, you're not much of a front-runner."

"Because this is proportional representation, we will leave…with a substantial number of delegates," Gingrich said.

Like Alabama, voter turnout in Mississippi appeared to be low. Midway through the voting, United Press International cited the Clarion Ledger of Jackson as saying the Mississippi Secretary of State was reporting low turnout.

Mississippi allocates 40 delegates toward the nominating convention, only 37 of whom are bound to respect the result of the state's primary: 12 are allocated proportionally by Congressional District to candidates who pass a 15-percent threshold of the vote each district. Twenty-five will be allocated proportionally by statewide vote to candidates who likewise pass a 15-percent threshold. And three Republican National Committee voters are so-called "super delegates" and may chose a candidate without regard for the primary's result.

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