March 25, 2012 in Nation/World

Santorum claims win in Louisiana

20 delegates at stake in primary
John Hoeffel Los Angeles Times
 
Associated Press photo

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks during a campaign rally Saturday in Bellevue, Wis.
(Full-size photo)

Delegate count

Despite losing in Louisiana, Mitt Romney maintains a large lead in the race for delegates. To secure the GOP nomination, 1,144 delegates are needed. The count:

• Mitt Romney:  563

• Rick Santorum:  272

• Newt Gingrich:  135

• Ron Paul:  50

NEW ORLEANS – Rick Santorum won handily in Louisiana’s Republican presidential primary Saturday, solidfying his position as Mitt Romney’s last credible challenger as the campaign heads into states that will test whether Santorum can broaden his appeal to less-conservative voters.

The former Pennsylvania senator had been expected to win but campaigned heavily in this Deep South state, seeking to reinforce his message that he is a trustworthy conservative while Romney is a politician with erasable Etch-A-Sketch views.

With 99 percent of the vote counted, Santorum had 49 percent, Romney 27 percent, Newt Gingrich 16 percent and Ron Paul 6 percent.

“The people in Louisiana sent a loud and clear message: This race is long and far from over,” Santorum said in brief remarks at a low-key celebration in a microbrewery in Green Bay, his fourth campaign appearance Saturday in Wisconsin.

With his double-digit victory in Louisiana, Santorum can claim to have the momentum again. But Romney’s second-place finish does little to dampen his drive to the nomination. Only 20 delegates were at stake in Saturday’s primary.

Romney has an enormous lead in delegates but still must reach 1,144 to assure him the nomination on the first ballot. Santorum has angrily dismissed the delegate counts as “Romney math,” arguing that they are based on mistaken assumptions.

Ryan Williams, a Romney spokesman, discounted the win as insignificant. “Rick Santorum is like a football team celebrating a field goal when they are losing by seven touchdowns with less than a minute left in the game,” he said.

Santorum’s win in Louisiana gives him new life after resounding losses in Puerto Rico and Illinois, but April’s contests present a challenge for the candidate whose success has depended heavily on support from evangelical voters and tea party supporters. The primaries are in the Northeast and Wisconsin, and they will draw more-moderate GOP voters.

The next primaries are April 3 in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia. His best shot is in Wisconsin, where he led in polls taken in February. But a survey completed after Romney’s thumping win in neighboring Illinois put the former Massachusetts governor comfortably ahead.

Then the campaign takes a hiatus until April 24, when New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware hold primaries.


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