Reporting from Washington — Rick Santorum won the Tennessee primary, the Associated Press projected, capturing an expected victory in a conservative Southern state where polls showed he enjoyed a comfortable lead over likely second-place finisher Mitt Romney.
The winner was projected based on exit polls, with precinct results just starting to come in after polls closed at 8 p.m. EST.
Santorum was popular with social conservatives in the state, while Romney had the endorsement of Gov. Bill Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell and much of the state’s GOP establishment. Gingrich, from neighboring Georgia, made a campaign stop in Nashville the week before the primary, but was not much of a factor.
Polls showed Romney had cut into Santorum’s lead in recent weeks, but it was not a state the moderate governor from Massachusetts expected to win.