Rick Santorum scored another two wins in the race for the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday night, indicating a potentially protracted race ahead.
The former U.S. Senator won the Alabama and Mississippi primaries, overcoming the financial advantages of Mitt Romney and Southern allegiances to Newt Gingrich.
Santorum strengthened his candidacy as the GOP campaign rolls into a state-by-state delegates battle in the weeks, and very possibly months, ahead.
An aggressive push by Romney to try and capitalize on the still-divided conservative electorate failed to take hold, and he finished third in both states.
“We did it again,” Santorum said, addressing jubilant supporters in Louisiana, which votes next week. “The time is now for conservatives to pull together.”
The outcome of the Alabama and Mississippi primaries bolstered Santorum’s argument that he should emerge as the final GOP competitor to Romney.
But Gingrich, who finished a close second in both states, noted that he earned about as many delegates as his rivals, and pledged to continue on.
“The elite media’s efforts to convince the nation that Mitt Romney is inevitable just collapsed,” Gingrich said, addressing a subdued crowd here in Birmingham.
“If you’re the front-runner and you come in third, you’re not much of a front-runner.”