Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich's Southern Primary Performance

Santorum's Sweep, Romney's Embarrassment, and Newt's Elegy

Santorum's Sweep, Romney's Embarrassment, and Newt's Elegy

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March 14 2012 4:01 PM

Santorum's Sweep, Romney's Embarrassment, and Newt's Elegy

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(Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum addresses supporters after winning the both Alabama and Mississippi primaries on March 13, 2012 in Lafayette, Louisiana.)

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

For those keeping score at home, last night’s biggest primary winners were those who want the GOP nomination fight to go on forever.

Newt Gingrich lost must-wins in Alabama and Mississippi, but hasn’t quit yet. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, is reeling from an embarrassing third-place finish in both states, while doubly victorious Rick Santorum basks in yet another switchback in the political narrative.

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What does it all mean? Pundits are again saying Romney and Santorum might fight all the way to the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla. Exit polling from both southern states offers a glimpse of more distinct data: Romney lost ground with the old and the rich, the top three candidates split a strong turnout of evangelical voters, and, surprise! Republicans still think Mitt isn’t conservative enough.

Combine all that with new national polling suggesting more general optimism on the economy, and more confidence in Romney’s economic creds than Obama’s, and that political crystal ball looks cloudier than ever.

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.