Polls Close in Republican Primaries in Alabama, Mississippi

Posted March 13th, 2012 at 7:45 pm (UTC-5)
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The polls have closed in Alabama and Mississippi after voters cast ballots Tuesday in the Republican presidential primaries in the two southern U.S. states.

Exit polls are showing Mitt Romney is barely ahead of Rick Santorum in Mississippi, while Santorum is leading Romney in Alabama. The other top candidate, Newt Gingrich, is in third place in both states.

The results of the races in Alabama and Mississippi, two predominantly conservative states, are important to each of the candidates.

Romney is hoping for victories to propel him forward and prove he can win over very conservative and evangelical Christian Republicans, who have been drawn to his main rival, former U.S. senator Santorum.

Santorum wants to knock Gingrich out of the race to stand as the sole conservative challenger to Romney.

Gingrich, a former U.S. House speaker, has focused his efforts on the southern vote and is hoping victory on Tuesday will make him the comeback favorite for the nomination. Otherwise, he could face increased calls to drop out.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is far ahead of the others in the delegate count, winning nearly 40 percent of the 1,144 needed to secure the party's nomination.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows he leads U.S. President Barack Obama in a hypothetical election match-up , while Santorum would be in a competitive race, three points behind Mr. Obama, if the election were held now.

The other Republican candidate, U.S. Representative Ron Paul, has not won a nominating contest. He has single digit support in Alabama and Mississippi.

The Pacific island state of Hawaii and the U.S. territory of American Samoa are holding caucus elections on Tuesday.

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


(( 1. SOUNDBITE: Romney at a rally Tuesday

“It seems the only place the president is willing to cut spending is the one place we shouldn't cut spending, which is our national defense. By the way, I know there's a lot of waste in the Department of Defense, and I want to go after that waste and make it more efficient, but I want to use the dollars we find in waste, buy more ships, buy more airplanes, get an additional 100,000 troops and get the veterans the care our veterans deserve. This is a choice for America about what kind of nation we're going to have, whether we're going to have a strong military devoted to protecting freedom. I happen to believe that a strong American military is the best ally piece has ever known. We need a strong military, a superior military, one that no nation in the world would ever think of testing, that is the best course for our security and our preservation and our liberties, and that's the kind of course that I'm going to pursue.”