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Rick Santorum wins Louisiana primary

March 24, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Rick Santorum, who won Saturday's Republican presidential primary in Louisiana, celebrates a strike while bowling after a campaign rally in Sheboygan, Wis.
Rick Santorum, who won Saturday's Republican presidential primary… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)

Reporting from Washington —

Rick Santorum has won the Louisiana Republican primary, giving his campaign a boost as front-runner Mitt Romney seeks to wind down the nominating process.

The Associated Press declared the former senator from Pennsylvania the victor based on early results and exit polling information.

Santorum was seen as the favorite heading into the vote in a state where only registered Republicans were eligible to participate, and where evangelical voters made up a far greater share of the vote than in Illinois, which handed Romney a sizable victory earlier this week.

According to the exit polls, Santorum won among just about every voter category. Among the few groups that Romney carried were voters earning more than $200,000 a year and those who were not white evangelical Christians.

A plurality of voters said defeating President Obama was the most important quality in a candidate, and Romney was the favorite among this group. But Santorum scored more decisive victories among voters who said they wanted a candidate who was a true conservative or was of strong moral character.

MAP: Louisiana GOP primary results

Louisiana will ultimately send 46 delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., this August, but only 20 will be allocated based on today's result.

Those 20 delegates will be allocated proportionally to any candidate who receives at least 25% of the statewide vote.

Five more at-large delegates and 18 of the congressional district delegates will be elected at the state party convention in June. But they will remain unbound. The final three delegates are the elected state party leaders.

Exit polls say the week's dominant political story line -- a Romney aide's "Etch-A-Sketch" comment that fueled doubts about the candidate's consistency on conservative issues -- was not a major concern. Only about 1 in 5 said the remarks played an important role in choosing a candidate, according to the Associated Press.

Two-thirds of those who turned out said they strongly favored their candidate, which is one of the highest percentages in any state that's voted this year.

In Illinois, only 45% said they strongly favored their choice.

The next GOP nominating contests will take place a week from Tuesday in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Romney was the clear delegate leader heading into Saturday's vote. According to the official tally maintained by the Republican National Committee, the former Massachusetts governor had 478 bound delegates, Santorum had 182, Newt Gingrich had 133 and Ron Paul had 26. Another 322 delegates are unbound, mainly from states that held caucuses.

Original source: Rick Santorum wins Louisiana primary

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