Live Updates on the Mississippi and Alabama contests today:
Tuesday 10:45 SANTORUM WINS MISSISSIPPI
10:33 p.m. Santorum gives a speech in Alabama. After criticizing Romney and thanking his supporters, Santorum gives a relatively weak speech with very little passion.
10:15 p.m. Mitt Romney struggling mightily in the South: Romney currently trails in Mississippi and is projected to get third in Alabama.
In Mississippi, with 80% of polls reporting, Santorum barely leads with 33% of the vote, followed by Gingrich with 32%, and Romney with 30%.
Most media outlets have now called it for Santorum in Alabama.
From the Santorum Camp:
RT @jimacostacnn: Santorum crowd singing "God Bless America."— Team Santorum (@TeamSantorum) March 14, 2012
10:00 p.m. Mississippi is so close. Santorum 33%, Gingrich 32%, Romney 30%
9:54 p.m. SANTORUM WINS ALABAMA
9:47 p.m. With 60% reporting, Santorum leads with 33% of the vote, followed closely behind by Gingrich and Romney, both with 31%.
9:45 p.m. Romney on CNN: Santorum is "in the desperate end of his campaign."
9:40 p.m. Alabama Race Tightening: With 10% of polls reporting Santorum leads with 34%, followed by Gingrich with 30%, and Romney with 28%.
9:30 p.m. With 34% of polls reporting, we've still got a really tight race in Mississippi: 33% for Santorum, 31% for Gingrich, and 30% for Romney.
And they were saying Mississippi would be a lot less complicated than Alabama.
9:18 p.m. With nearly 15% of polls reporting in Mississippi, the race is still super tight. Santorum is in front with 33%, and Gingrich and Romney both have 30%.
9:15 p.m. Romney's Money Machine Still Crushing: There is a massive spending advantage for Romney: His Super PAC outspent Santorum by at least 5-1 in Alabama and by more than 2-1 in Mississippi.
8:55 p.m. With ~2% reporting in Mississippi Gingrich takes quick lead with 34%, followed by Santorum with 33%, and Romney with 27%.
8:45 p.m. In the Struggling South, the Economy Matters: According to exit polls in Alabama, 93% of voters said they were worried about the direction of the nation's economy, including 82% of voters, who said they were very worried.
8:35 p.m. Half an Hour in and Mississippi Starts Counting Votes: Romney takes the early lead with 63%, followed by Santorum 22%, Gingrich 11%, and Paul 4%
8:30 p.m. With ~2% of polls reporting in Ala. Santorum up 34%, followed by Romney 28%, Gingrich 26%, and Paul 8%.
8:20 p.m. With 1% of polls reporting in Alabama, Gingrich leads with 39%, followed by Romney 29%, Santorum 21%, and Paul 0%. A total of 34 votes have been counted so far.
According to exit polls in Mississippi, Romney is performing better with less educated and less wealthy voters than in past contests.
8:10 p.m. CNN Alabama Exit Poll: Romney 37, Santorum 28, Gingrich 26, Paul 5
8:05 p.m. Polls in Alabama and Mississippi have just closed. Both primary races are too early to call. Romney looks set to make waves in Mississippi, while Alabama looks set to be a close fight.
7:45 p.m. Evangelical Make the Biggest Voting Bloc
7:30 p.m. Elecability is Key: In Exit polls in both Mississippi and Alabama, eleability ruled, a trend that bodes well for Romney. In Alabama, 39% of voters said defeating Barack Obama come November was the most important candidate quality; in Mississippi, 42% said the same thing.
5:20 p.m. Grave Concerns in Alabama: No Candidate Worthy of the Ticket: As PolicyMicer Keiana Quarker White from Atmore, Ala., explains: "There’s a buzz in the air, 'We have no one to vote for this year.' There are far too many Alabamians who fear the worst for the election: They do not have a chance at beating Barrack Obama. The GOP has yet to produce a candidate worthy for the ticket – a 'true champion' for the party.
Though the results from Tuesday’s primary may echo predicted Gallup poll readings, many GOP supporters are casting their votes with grave concerns. The party is deeply divided, and everyone knows it. Yet, the GOP insists on playing charades; they are really running scared of losing it all (which they very well may)."
4 p.m. Santorum Struggling in Mississippi, Surprisingly: As Y'all Politics reports: "Santorum has been a surprise in the polls. The one candidate that seemingly best aligned with Mississippi voters has struggled to connect and spread his message. He was a lock to win Mississippi and Alabama by a wide margin just a few weeks ago but now his victory is not assured, and if he does win, it will be close."
2 p.m. Expect Low Enthusiasm in Mississippi: According to PolicyMic pundit Meghan Litten: "I expect there to be a low turnout today in the Mississippi Republican Primary. Every college, university, and public school district is on Spring Break. This past weekend there was a mass exodus of Mississippians to their favorite vacation spots. Thus there will be no traffic in an effort to get to the polls."
Also From Litten, Democrats might help determine the contest: "Santorum will grab a lot of votes today, but maybe not from the Republicans. Mississippi has an open primary, and I suspect that many Democrats will vote in the contest. Who will they vote for? Well most of my friends will cast a vote for Santorum with the belief that he will be easy for Obama to defeat (slaughter) in November. A little The Ides of March in Mississippi."
11:20 a.m. Romney Will Clinch the GOP Nomination in the South? “I think it’s over if he wins here,” said Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant of Romney after a Monday rally with comedian Jeff Foxworthy at a trucking company outside Jackson. “At that point how do you go and say, ‘I’m the most conservative candidate’ if you can’t win the most conservative state in the country?"
10 a.m. 91% of the 5,592 campaign ads airing in Mississippi and Alabama in the past month were supplied by Super PACs.
9:45 a.m. Gingrich Takes Lead in Mississippi: According to Intrade, a website which speculates on the outcomes of non-sports-related future events, Gingrich has a 56.5% chance of winning Mississippi. Closest competitor Romney has a 35% chance of winning the state.
Gingrich Takes Lead in Alabama: Gingrich has a 66% chance of winning the Alabama primary, according to Intrade, a site that speculates on the outcomes of non-sports-related future events. Closest competitor Romney has a 19% chance of winning, according to the site.
9:00 a.m. Tuesday's Alabama Vote Will Be Close: Recent polls in Alabama show a tight race with Romney at 31% to 30% for Gingrich, 29% for Santorum, and 8% for Paul.
8:00 a.m. In Beloxi yesterday, the candidates sparred, attacking each other.
Santorum on Romney: “If the opportunity provides itself in an open convention, they’re not going to nominate a moderate Massachusetts governor who has been outspending his opponent 10-1 and can’t win the election outright,” Santorum said in a television interview as he campaigned across Alabama and Mississippi.
Romney countered, also on television. “We’re closing the deal, state by state, delegate by delegate,” he said, emphasizing his lead in the category that matters most.
Gingrich On the South: "We have momentum, but we haven't won," Gingrich said on the stump. "We still have to go out and finish the sale."
Santorum, though, said Gingrich needs to face the fact that he can't win. "Other than the state of Georgia," Santorum pointed out, "he hasn't finished above third in two months. ... Newt's run in three states, really. This is his fourth and fifth state that he's actually tried to compete in, because he hasn't been able to compete anywhere else -- because he can't."
The candidates also attacked Obama's record on the economy and the environment.
“The dangers of carbon dioxide? Tell that to a plant, how dangerous carbon dioxide is,” said Santorum.
Ron Paul a Non-Factor: Ron Paul is at single digits in most polls for Mississippi and Alabama.
"About all we know for sure about Tuesday's primaries is that Ron Paul will finish last in them," Dean Debnam, president of PPP, said in a statement. "Beyond that it's plausible that any of the candidates could finish between first and third in both Alabama and Mississippi."
Fresh off weekend primaries in Kansas, Wyoming, Guam, and the Northern Marianas Islands, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum now turn their attention to the Alabama and Mississippi primaries on Tuesday.
Newt Gingrich has staked the future of his campaign on both Southern states, while Rick Santorum is looking to knock-off Gingrich as the not-Romney candidate once-and-for-all. While Mitt Romney is not expected to perform well, he may make a surprise showing in Alabama. Ron Paul will likely trail behind all the other candidates in both contests.
PolicyMic is covering both primaries live, and will be regularly updating this page as new information becomes available. Stay tuned. Here's the background:
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Alabama: RealClearPolitics.com projects Mitt Romney has a narrow lead over Newt Gingrich (2.3 percent). But, out of four polls taken in March, Gingrich held a one-point lead in two of them.
There are 50 delegates at stake in Alabama. The primary is open, meaning voters can choose to vote in whichever primary they prefer.
Rick Santorum is confident Gingrich will be out of the race by the end of the week. "Hopefully after this Tuesday, this will be a two-person race, and we can get down to business of deciding whether we want a conservative or a moderate to go up against Barack Obama," Santorum said in an interview on Bloomberg Television's "Political Capital with Al Hunt" airing this weekend.
Mitt Romney is hoping for a key standout victory in either contest to show he has pull amongst Southern, socially conservative and evangelical voters. Romney has yet to win a contest in the deep South.
Mississippi: Gingrich is now holding on to a slight lead with 33% to 31% for Romney, 27% for Santorum, and 7% for Paul, according to a new survey by Public Policy Polling.
Nate Silver projects that Romney has a 69% chance of victory in the state, while Gingrich has a 26% projected chance of winning and Santorum has a 5% chance.
Many Mississippi voters say they are looking for one thing: a candidate that can beat Barack Obama in November. Based on that, Romney very much looks like the frontrunner in the state. Still, one poll by the American research group showed that Gingrich currently leads in the state with 35%, followed by Romney’s 31% and Santorum’s 20%.
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