Santorum Wins Tennessee With Ease

Rick Santorum speaking at a Nashville rally last week.

Rick Santorum speaking at a Nashville rally last week.

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum picked up an easy win in Tennessee, the state with the third most delegates at stake for Super Tuesday. The Associated Press called the race less than an hour after polls closed.

Santorum’s win could set the tone for other southern states like Alabama and Mississippi, which hold their primaries next week. The former Pennsylvania senator wasn’t heavily organized in Tennessee, but he made multiple campaign stops around the state, telling voters it was in his “wheelhouse” for Super Tuesday.

Bill Dunn, one of Santorum’s backers in the state House of Representatives, credits values voters, with whom Santorum plays particularly well.

“You may be for social issues or fiscal issues. He understands that there’s a correlation between the two – that when morals go down, taxes have to go up. So if we’re not taking care of ourselves socially, we’re never going to be able to fix our problems fiscally.”

Evangelical Christians did help push Santorum to victory in Tennessee. Voters like Ron Falconberry of LaVergne say they like his emphasis on family values.

“I think the family is the most important part of society. And a lot of the problems now is because the family is breaking apart.”

However, Santorum was the reluctant choice of some. Dennis Waldron is an alderman in LaVergne.

“I don’t really like him all that good, but compared to all the rest of them. Romney, he’s too ‘New England’ for me down south.”

Party chair Chris Devaney congratulated Santorum despite Romney being the pick of many within the state’s GOP establishment.

“It’s not my job to pick winners and losers in this. Certainly I think Senator Santorum did a good job at getting out his campaign message with voters here in the state. But if you look at the Mitt Romney campaign, they closed the gap.”

Prior to Super Tuesday, Romney said even if he didn’t win Tennessee, he’d try to pick up as many delegates as possible. He and Newt Gingrich both maintained the 20 percent necessary to take a slice of the state’s 58 delegates.

Daniel Potter contributed to this report.

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