Santorum cruises in Louisiana

Updated
 
Santorum cruises in Louisiana
Santorum cruises in Louisiana
Associated Press

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s primary win in Illinois, Republicans spent much of the last few days coalescing behind the GOP frontrunner, signifying an effective end to the party’s presidential nominating contest. Republican voters in Louisiana, however, didn’t care.

With all of the precincts reporting, Rick Santorum easily outpaced his rivals, winning yesterday’s primary with 49% support. Romney, who has struggled badly in the South, was a distant second with just 26.7%. Newt Gingrich, whose “Southern Strategy” was supposed to keep his campaign alive and who boasted this week that he’d do well in Louisiana, ended up third with just 15.9% – more than 33 points behind Santorum.

The former senator won 63 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes.

Santorum’s win snaps Romney’s recent winning streak, and reinforces the perception that this is a two-man contest, but if the former senator was hoping to get a major boost in the delegate count, the results are likely to disappoint.

Only 20 delegates were up for grabs on Saturday, with 26 more to be allocated later. Even if Mr. Santorum were to claim most of them, he would still have only half the delegates that Mitt Romney, his chief rival, already has. […]

It was not immediately clear how many delegates Mr. Santorum and Mr. Romney would collect.

Santorum will walk away from with more Louisiana delegates than Romney, which will help a little to narrow Romney’s large lead, but the former governor is still inching closer to 1,144.

As for the larger context, yesterday’s win gives Santorum a brief shot in the arm, and gives his campaign a rationale to keep fighting despite facing long odds. It also reinforces lingering questions about Romney’s strength: how is it, even at this point, the frontrunner can’t put away his underfunded, unorganized, and often-clownish rivals? How is it that Romney, despite all of his advantages, is still losing primaries by 22 points in late March?

The conventional wisdom is almost certainly correct: Romney’s occasional setbacks won’t fundamentally change the GOP race. The former governor will be the de facto nominee sometime in April, if he’s not there already, and he’ll probably cross the 1,144 threshold before the convention. But when Santorum told supporters last night, “We’re still here, we’re still fighting,” his bravado was grounded in fact.

The next contests are scheduled for April 3 – a week from Tuesday – with primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Because he oversees such a weak and disjointed organization, Santorum won’t even be on the ballot in D.C., and he will be heavily outspent in Wisconsin and Maryland.

Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney

Santorum cruises in Louisiana

Updated