Santorum wins 33 delegates in Kansas
Romney camp says it added more delegates to its total this weekend
Romney touts wins in three territories and updated Wyoming figures
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum cruised to victory in Saturday’s Kansas caucuses, gathering momentum for two upcoming Southern primaries. But top rival Mitt Romney’s campaign said the candidate won more delegates over the weekend, with the help of three other races and updated results in one state.
Santorum’s victory in Kansas – which his top rivals essentially ceded – came on the heels of his three victories on Super Tuesday last week. His campaign said tea party loyalists and conservatives continue to rally around him, and he went after Romney on Sunday as a shifting candidate with no loyalty to conservative principles.
Santorum received 51% of the votes, according to a Kansas Republican Party initial count. Romney was second with 21%, followed by Newt Gingrich at 14% and Ron Paul at 13%.
Santorum picked up 33 delegates in the Jayhawk State; Romney won seven.
Campaigning in Springfield, Missouri, on Saturday afternoon, Santorum went after President Barack Obama. He criticized the president’s stance on energy, health care, Iran and the debt. The Republican candidate also talked about entitlement programs.
“In the eyes of the president, America is a great country because government redistributes wealth,” Santorum said.
Romney and Gingrich abandoned plans to campaign in Kansas and instead focused on Tuesday primaries in Mississippi and Alabama. Paul campaigned in Kansas on Friday and Saturday.
According to a CNN estimate Saturday, Romney had 458 delegates, compared with 203 for Santorum, 118 for Gingrich and 66 for Paul. A candidate needs 1,144 delegates at the Republican convention this summer to secure the nomination to face Obama in November.
The Romney camp said it won more delegates than Santorum did, counting caucus gains in the Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, plus a handful of delegates selected in Wyoming that CNN had estimated in February.
“In what was hyped as a big opportunity for Rick Santorum, he again fell short of making a dent in Mitt Romney’s already large delegate lead,” Romney press secretary Andrea Saul said in a statement.
Romney won the Northern Mariana Islands caucuses early Saturday, picking up nine delegates. He garnered 87% of the vote.
Romney received seven delegates in the Virgin Islands. Paul got one. Final results were not reported.
Late Friday, Romney won Guam’s nine delegates in its caucuses there.
“I am grateful to have won all nine delegates in Guam,” Romney said in a statement after the vote. “The people of Guam have always stood bravely for America and the values we hold dear.”
With question marks hovering over Santorum’s chances in the two upcoming Southern primaries, any bragging rights he may claim from his Kansas win may be short-lived.
A fresh poll out in Mississippi showed Santorum running behind Gingrich and Romney. Alabama will be an equally important test of Santorum’s appeal in the South.
Gingrich campaigned Saturday in Alabama, reiterating criticism of Obama over his energy policies.
The candidate and other Republicans complain the president is bowing to foreign oil suppliers such as Saudi Arabia and the environmental lobby by not fully exploiting U.S. oil reserves.
“The answer is energy independence for America,” Gingrich said in Dothan.
Romney substantially increased his delegate lead on Super Tuesday but failed by most accounts to deliver a knockout blow. He squeezed out a razor-thin popular vote win in the bellwether state of Ohio while carrying his home state of Massachusetts, plus Idaho, Vermont, Virginia and Alaska.
Santorum won North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee, while Gingrich cruised to victory in his home state of Georgia.