Daniel Doherty

After picking up 18 delegates in less than 24 hours, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney failed Saturday night to keep his win streak alive. With 94% of precincts reporting, Rick Santorum has won the Kansas state caucuses, eclipsing Romney’s second place finish by double digits. Santorum, who campaigned vigorously in the Sunflower State, won the contest handily with 51 percent of the vote. (Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Congressman Ron Paul garnered 14 and 13 percent, respectively). Needless to say, this was the most anticipated election of the weekend, and the former Pennsylvania Senator’s significant – albeit unsurprising – victory might pay some dividends before the far more consequential Alabama and Mississippi primaries next week.

It’s also worth mentioning that Newt Gingrich – who didn’t campaign in Kansas – finished in third place with no less than 4,000 votes. This strikes me as somewhat significant considering his campaign spent very little money in the state, yet still attracted a plurality of voters. In other words, his bronze medal has one salient implication – namely, if Gingrich and Santorum continue to split the social conservative/tea party/Evangelical vote, Romney will inevitably win the Republican nomination. (Incidentally, to the chagrin of Team Santorum, Newt told reporters today he has no intentions of dropping out of the race.)

On the whole, this is a big win for the former Pennsylvania Senator who will take home the vast majority of the state's 40 delegates. Still, it remains to be seen whether or not Rick Santorum has proven to Republicans he is a viable and electable alternative to Mitt Romney.

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Update - Mitt Romney may have lost the Kansas Caucuses, but he still managed to pick up half a dozen delegates in the Equality State.

In Wyoming, Romney won at least six of the 12 delegates at stake, Santorum three, Paul one. Uncommitted won one, and a final delegate remained to be allocated.

The day's events unfolded as the candidates pointed toward Tuesday's primaries in Alabama and Mississippi that loom as unexpectedly important in the race to pick an opponent to President Barack Obama in the fall.

Polls show a close race in both states, particularly Alabama, where Romney, Gingrich and Santorum all added to their television advertising overnight for the race's final days.

Gingrich, struggling for survival in the race, can ill afford a loss in either Mississippi or Alabama. Romney is seeking a Southern breakthrough to demonstrate an ability to win the support of evangelical voters.

Update II – Here are the election results from the weekend:

The contests in Kansas and Wyoming left Romney with 453 delegates in the AP's count, more than all his rivals combined. Santorum had 217, while Gingrich had 107 and Paul had 47.

Romney's totals included 22 that he picked up in the Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

A candidate must win 1,144 to clinch the Republican presidential nomination at the national convention in Tampa next August.


Daniel Doherty

Daniel Doherty is Townhall's Deputy News Editor. Follow him on Twitter @danpdoherty.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography