Santorum Wins Louisiana Republican Primary: CNN

by
Reuters
Rick Santorum won the Louisiana Republican primary on Saturday, CNN projected based on exit polls, adding an 11th state to his total but still trailing Mitt Romney by a wide margin in the national delegate count.

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum addresses supporters at a rally in Sheboygan, Wisconsin March 24, 2012.

Rick Santorum won the Louisiana Republican primary on Saturday, CNN projected based on exit polls, adding an 11th state to his total but still trailing Mitt Romney by a wide margin in the national delegate count.

The network made the call moments after voting closed, citing Santorum's lead among voters in all income groups except for the very wealthy.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, was projected to finish second in the state, with former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich in third place and Texas congressman Ron Paul fourth.

Santorum, a socially conservative former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, has done well in the Deep South, winning Mississippi and Alabama earlier this month.

Louisiana's Republican ranks have many evangelical Christians. The state also has a large block of Roman Catholic voters who, as a group, are regarded as more conservative than Catholics in many other states.

Saturday's primary allocated only 20 of Louisiana's 46 total Republican delegates as candidates spar for the right to take on Democratic President Barack Obama in the November general election.

Early returns from just a handful of precincts showed Santorum with 40 percent of the vote, Romney at 30 percent and Gingrich at 21.6 percent. If those totals hold, Santorum and Romney would both gain delegates from Louisiana, with Gingrich shut out.

Exit polls showed that 47 percent of Republican primary voters identified as "very conservative," and of those Santorum beat Romney by 52 percent to 24 percent. Santorum also won majorities among voters calling themselves somewhat conservative or moderate.

A Republican candidate needs 1,144 delegates to secure the party's nomination. CNN's current delegate count puts Romney well ahead, with 563 delegates to Santorum's 251.