Santorum Sweeps Southern Primaries

Blogging the Beltway: Romney's "cheesy grits" strategy wasn't enough to win over voters.

Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Bragging rights go to Rick Santorum, the big winner in the Alabama and Mississippi primaries on Tuesday. His victories in the deep red Southern states, where a combined average of 40 percent of primary voters described themselves as “very conservative,” came with 35 percent and 33 percent of the votes respectively at the times the results were called, as projected by news networks. Newt Gingrich placed second in both races, and Mitt Romney third.

“We did it again,” Santorum told a cheering crowd in Lafayette, La., where he was campaigning for the state’s March 24 primary. “This campaign is about ordinary folks doing extraordinary things … Going out there exceeding expectations, going out there defying the odds, because we believe in something that’s bigger than ourselves.”

Santorum’s sweep is all the more notable when you consider the disproportionate spending in both races, with Romney’s massive war chest burying the other campaigns. (Something that Santorum couldn’t resists taking a swipe at: “For someone who thinks this race is inevitable, he spent a whole lot of money against me for being inevitable.”) Yet despite outspending his opponents, not to mention his attempts to charm voters with his newfound appreciation for grits, Romney just wasn’t able to connect with voters in the Deep South.

Still, with Romney’s lead and his ability to keep collecting delegates, awarded on a proportional basis, Tuesday night’s results don’t change the delegate count very much. In terms of perception, however, Santorum’s campaign is building further momentum, Gingrich’s decision to stay in the race seems more dubious than ever and Romney the front-runner … is still struggling.

Cynthia Gordy is The Root’s Washington reporter.