Santorum wins Tennessee primary

Rick Santorum came out on top in Tennessee on Tuesday, defeating Mitt Romney and his other GOP rivals in the conservative, southern state.

The television news networks called the race for Santorum less than an hour after the polls closed.

With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Santorum had won 37 percent of the vote. Romney took second place with 28 percent. Newt Gingrich got 24 percent, and Ron Paul took fourth place with 9 percent.

ADVERTISEMENT
Santorum's win was an important symbolic victory for the former Pennsylvania senator, who has worked diligently to position himself as the most conservative candidate in the race.

Fifty-eight delegates were at stake in the contest. Of those, 28 will be awarded proportionally based on the statewide vote, because no candidate broke through the 66 percent threshold to win them all. Another 27 delegates will be awarded by congressional district, in addition to three unbound national party delegates.

A mostly rural state that cares deeply about entrepreneurship, Tennessee holds a large swath of the evangelical voters who have formed the backbone of Santorum's support in other states.

But many of the states leaders, including Gov. Bill Haslam (R), backed Romney. In addition to endorsing Romney, Haslam chaired Romney's campaign in the state, returning the favor from 2010, when Romney backed Haslam's gubernatorial bid.

Gingrich also made a solid push in Tennessee, campaigning in Nashville while Romney and Santorum were focused on Michigan.

Santorum had the early lead in Tennessee, with polls one week ago showing him with almost twice as much support as Romney. But the former Massachusetts governor appeared to have the momentum as polls closer to Tuesday showed him pulling even with Santorum.

In the 2008 presidential contest, Romney came in third in Tennessee with 24 percent of the vote. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee topped the race with 34 percent, followed by Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the eventual GOP nominee, with 32 percent.

More in Presidential races

Poll: Romney, Bush top '16 GOP field

Read more »