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OPINION

Santorum wins evangelicals, Romney delegates

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP) -- Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum once again rode the support of self-identified evangelical/born again voters to a pair of momentum-building victories Tuesday, but Mitt Romney still walked away with the most delegates, thanks to a pair of Pacific island victories.

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Santorum won Alabama and Mississippi on the strength of the evangelical/born again contingent in both states, picking up 36 delegates, according to a New York Times tally. Romney, though, held his own in both states and then won Hawaii and American Samoa, giving him 43 delegates for the night and helping him increase his delegate total.

Although the delegate tallies vary between media outlets, the Associated Press has Romney leading with 495 delegates to Santorum's 252 and Newt Gingrich's 131. A total of 1,144 delegates is needed to clinch the nomination.

Santorum's consistently strong showing among evangelical and born again voters could impact how Romney runs his general election campaign -- including his pick of a running mate -- if he is the nominee.

In Alabama, Santorum captured 36 percent of the evangelical/born again vote, compared to Gingrich's 31 percent and Romney's 27 percent, according to a Times exit poll. In Mississippi, Santorum won 36 percent to Gingrich's 31 percent and Romney's 29 percent. Unlike the exit polls from CNN, FoxNews and others, the Times' exit polls include evangelical and born again voters of all races.

But a plurality of voters in both states think Romney has the best chance to beat Obama. Asked who would be most likely to beat Obama, 46 percent of Alabama voters and 49 percent of Mississippi voters picked Romney, even though Romney won only 29 and 30 percent in each state, respectively.

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Santorum picked up 19 delegates in Alabama to Romney's 11. Romney won more delegates (14-13) in Mississippi -- even though Santorum won the state -- because the state's two superdelegates, who are not tied to the vote total, chose Romney, the Times reported. Each state awarded delegates proportionally.

In Hawaii, Romney won nine delegates to Santorum's four, and in American Samoa, Romney won all nine delegates.

The race now moves to Missouri (caucuses, Saturday), Puerto Rico (primary, Sunday), Illinois (primary, March 20) and Louisiana (primary, March 24).

Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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