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Santorum defeats Romney in Louisiana

WASHINGTON — Rick Santorum won the Louisiana Republican presidential primary Saturday, beating front-runner Mitt Romney in yet another conservative Southern state.

Although the victory gives Santorum bragging rights, it does not change the overall dynamics of the race; the former Pennsylvania senator still dramatically lags behind Romney in the hunt for delegates to the GOP's summertime nominating convention.

Even so, Santorum's win underscores a pattern in the drawn-out race.

The underfunded underdog has tended to win in Bible Belt states that include Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. Romney — a deep-pocketed, highly organized former Massachusetts governor — has persistently struggled in such heavily conservative regions.

Neither candidate was in the state as Louisiana Republicans weighed in. Nor was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was trailing in Louisiana.

Romney took a rare day off Saturday, with no public events. Santorum spent the day campaigning in Pennsylvania and next-up Wisconsin, which votes April 3 and represents one of his last chances to beat Romney in a Midwestern state.

"Stand for your principles. Don't compromise. Don't sell America short," Santorum implored voters in Milwaukee, telling them that he expected their state to be "the turning point in this race."

In an unmistakable jab at Romney, Santorum added: "Don't make the mistake that Republicans made in 1976. Don't nominate the moderate. When you do, we lose." It was a reference to Ronald Reagan losing the 1976 Republican nomination to President Gerald Ford, and Democrat Jimmy Carter winning the White House.

Santorum defeats Romney in Louisiana 03/24/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 24, 2012 10:44pm]
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