- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rick Santorum has won Mississippi’s Republican presidential primary — completing a two-state sweep of Deep South contests. Santorum narrowly edged rivals Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney to win Mississippi.

Earlier, Santorum won Alabama’s GOP primary with a slightly wider margin. Evangelicals played a key role in both states. Nearly 4 of 5 voters surveyed in exit polls called themselves born-again or evangelical.

“We’re on our way to victory tonight; we’re on our way to victory in this election,” exulted Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator who has long sought to emerge as the sole more-conservative rival to Romney.

Romney, the faraway front-runner in the delegate chase, bristled in the hours before the votes were counted, saying Santorum was “at the desperate end of his campaign.”

But it was Gingrich with the most to lose as he struggled for political survival in a part of the country he hoped would fuel one more comeback in the unpredictable race to pick an opponent to President Barack Obama.

There were 107 Republican National Convention delegates at stake on Tuesday, 47 in Alabama, 37 in Mississippi, 17 in Hawaii caucuses and six more in caucuses in American Samoa.

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