Mississippi, Alabama to Hold Republican Primaries Tuesday

Posted March 12th, 2012 at 7:30 pm (UTC-5)
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The Republican race for the U.S. presidential nomination heads to the southern part of the country, where the states of Alabama and Mississippi hold primaries on Tuesday.

The top three Republican candidates — Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich — battled for support in those states Monday.

Romney appeared with comedian Jeff Foxworthy at a campaign rally in Alabama, while Santorum and Gingrich spoke at an energy forum in Mississippi.

Polls indicate a close race among the three. Those traditionally conservative states are important as the candidates seek to widen their support among the party base.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is far ahead in the overall Republican race and has won nearly 40 percent of the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination. But he is struggling for support from working class voters and religious conservatives, who have been drawn to his main rival, Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania.

Gingrich, a former U.S. House speaker, is seeking a comeback after a win last week in his home state of Georgia.

The only other state Gingrich has won is South Carolina, and failure to win at least one contest Tuesday could accelerate calls for him to drop out and let Santorum stand as Romney's sole conservative challenger.

In a boost for Romney, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows he leads President Barack Obama in a hypothetical election matchup, 49 to 47 percent. The poll, which has a margin of error of four percentage points, also shows Mr. Obama leading Santorum 49 to 46 percent.

U.S. Representative Ron Paul, who has not won a nominating contest, has single digit support in Alabama and Mississippi.

The Pacific island state of Hawaii and the U.S. territory of American Samoa also vote Tuesday.

The Republican Party will formally nominate its presidential candidate at its convention in Tampa, Florida, in late August. That nominee will face President Obama, a Democrat, in the November election.