Santorum Solid Win in Louisiana But Uphill Ahead

March 26, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Rick Santorum
Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum speaks to supporters at a Rally for Rick, at Ledgeview Bowling Lanes on March 25, in Fond du Lac, Wis. Santorum is back on the campaign trail following a decisive victory in Louisiana's GOP primary election. (Mark Hirsch/Getty Images)

Rick Santorum made winning in Louisiana look easy when he beat Mitt Romney by over 10 points in Saturday’s primary but that may be the last time he gains such a solid win in the GOP race.

Louisiana is the last of the Deep South states to vote. These states represent populations that are strongly conservative and have been an uphill battle for Romney’s GOP nomination.

Santorum’s win will give him momentum following a loss in the Illinois primary last week. He gained 49 percent of the vote in Louisiana, to Romney’s 27 percent in what has been described as his strongest win against the former Massachusetts governor.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came in third with 16 percent and Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 7 percent making both candidates unable to achieve the 25 percent necessary to gain any of the 20 delegates, which are proportionately distributed.

“Our campaign is making history,” Santorum said in an email that came out soon after he was projected the winner of the state by CNN. “Not since Ronald Reagan in 1976 has a conservative candidate won as many states as we have.”

Santorum took the opportunity to take a pot shot at Romney who he has accused of lacking core conservative values.

“The reason why our campaign is winning in state after state is because people want an authentic, strong conservative leader to take on Barack Obama and not someone who just talks a good conservative game,” he said.

The former Pennsylvania governor has won 11 out of 34 contests, largely with the help of evangelical Christians and strongly conservative voters who have large populations in the Southern states. Santorum won across Louisiana including among those declaring the economy the major issue of the election campaign.

Analysts say it will be difficult for Santorum to go far with the renewed momentum.

“Beyond Louisiana, there’s not an obvious place in the short term where Santorum can get a meaningful win,” says Larry Sabato, from the Center for Politics, on his website. “He needs to focus his dwindling resources on Wisconsin, but after failing midwestern tests in Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois, can he come back in Badgerland on April 3?”

Romney the former Massachusetts governor did not expect to do well in Louisiana turning his attention to the Northeast, which have winner-take-all primaries, not only in Wisconsin, but also Maryland, and the District of Columbia on April 3 are likely to reap Romney 98 delegates.

He also received a boost earlier in the week when Florida Gov. Jeb Bush endorsed Romney and called on Republicans to “unite” behind the Romney campaign.

The endorsement came on the same day that one of Romney’s aids described Romney’s campaign at a turning point but used the unfortunate description of the move being just like an “Etch a Sketch” toy.

“Everything changes,” said Eric Fehrnstrom during a CNN interview last week “It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”

Rivals seized on the quote to further attack Romney for being a flip flopper.

Santorum told supporters in Louisiana that voters were not “looking for someone who’s the Etch A Sketch candidate, you’re looking for someone who writes what they believe in stone and stays true to what they say.”

Newt Gingrich used the quote to reassure voters he was in for the long term,
“I’m staying in the race because I believe we ought to have a conservative who’s serious, who’s had national achievements, and who doesn’t write his policy on an Etch A Sketch and zig-zag back and forth wildly,” Gingrich said on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight.”

Mr. Romney meanwhile continues to amass delegates, his tally so far at 565 secured and unsecured versus Santorum’s 266, according to RealClearPolitics.

A candidate needs 1,144 delegates in order to win the presidential nomination at the Republican convention in August.