Rick Santorum Wins Big in Louisiana

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Santorum in Louisiana Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

As predicted, Rick Santorum won the "fight for freedom" in Louisiana on Saturday, coming away with 49 percent of the vote. Runner-up Mitt Romney took 27 percent while Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul ended up with 16 percent and 6 percent, respectively. Santorum's latest victory has been largely attributed to his appeal among the Bayou state's significant population of self-identified "very conservative" voters, many of whom fall into the Republican candidate's bread-and-butter demographic: evangelical Christians. And Santorum also managed to draw in self-described (and relative) "moderates or liberals," groups that have generally tended toward Romney in past primaries. But, with only twenty delegates up for grabs (per Louisiana's voting rules, the state's remaining 26 will be allocated later), the win was more of a "psychological boost," as Romney is still leading the numbers game by a wide margin. Santorum once again took the opportunity to remind voters (and the media) that he's not planning on giving up of the fight, delegate math be damned: 

“I just want to thank you for making a very clear and crisp statement,” Santorum said in a celebration with a small group of reporters from a Wisconsin restaurant. “You don’t believe this race is over. You didn’t get the memo.”

However, it seems that the Louisiana electorate's statement is a bit less clear and crisp than Santorum would like to believe. As voter Jules Richard put it to a reporter, "I voted for Santorum just to annoy Romney, really,” while noting that he'd support Romney in the national election. Another woman who cast her vote for Santorum, Linda Gibson, explained her decision thusly: 

“I will support the GOP candidate no matter what. But Romney is a RINO [Republican in-name-only]...I feel like Santorum needs to go to the end, because people are still changing their minds. But I’m not going to support Romney now, because I’ve got to vote my conscience.”

And Louisianian Catherine Farrish, who "considered voting for Romney so the race would end quicker," explained that she ultimately decided to go with Santorum because "he scares me the least." Though, she added, "I'm not in love with any of them." 

Meanwhile, despite evidence that his plan to reinvigorate his campaign with a string of wins in the south has largely failed, Newt Gingrich put on the brave — and uncharacteristically humble — face: 

“Rick Santorum deserves credit for coming in first in Louisiana,” Gingrich said. “I am very grateful for the thousands of Louisianians who voted for me tonight. The theme of $2.50 per gallon of gasoline or less, and an American energy policy that ensures no American president will ever again bow to a Saudi king were clearly popular .  . . This is clearly still an open race. So . . . I will carry our solution-oriented campaign to Tampa.” 

With continued financial backing from Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate behind the "Winning Our Future" Super PAC, it seems that Gingrich will indeed continue his limp to Florida. (Ron Paul, with his extremely devoted followers, will also likely make the trek.) However, as noted by the Caucus, that pair of "vibrant characters" has largely slipped into irrelevancy as the number of personality and bravado-showcasing televised debates have diminished. At this point, it is possible the Republicans are now looking at a two-man race — if you squint and cock your head a bit, that is. The coming days will bring the candidates out of the South and into battleground states like Wisconsin (which votes on April 3), where Romney is currently outspending Santorum 60 to 1.