Last night’s Republican primary contest in Tennessee could set the tone for several other southern races later this month. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum won the state, but officials with Mitt Romney’s campaign were quick to point out he didn’t go down without a fight.
Romney had the backing of the governor and a slew of representatives in Congress and the state legislature, but it wasn’t enough to fend off Santorum.
State Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty is also a senior adviser for Romney’s national campaign. He says Santorum leaped far ahead during early voting, and he credits Romney with doing what he could to close the gap and pick up delegates.
“Tennessee is going to stand as a beacon for the south – that we will be able to reach beyond, we’ll play very hard in the south. Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana are looking very good for Mitt Romney.”
Last night’s split delegate count, which also breathed some life into the flagging campaign of Newt Gingrich, leaves the primary race open. But Hagerty stressed that the long primary is a good thing for the GOP, because it’s battle-testing candidates before fall.