WICHITA, Kansas – Rick Santorum picked up a solid win in the caucus in conservative Kansas on Saturday, keeping him in contention in the Republican presidential contest on the heels of frontrunner Mitt Romney. In the latest contest of the rollercoaster Republican presidential race, Christian conservative Santorum won Kansas after Romney took sweeping wins thousands of miles away in Pacific US territories Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. “I congratulate Rick Santorum on winning the Kansas caucus. I also thank all of our candidates for their dedication to ending Barack Obama’s failed presidency,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley said: “We are very pleased to see the Santorum surge sweeping through the Jayhawk State. This is a great win for the campaign and further evidence that conservatives and Tea Party loyalists are uniting behind Rick as the true, consistent conservative in this race.” Former Pennsylvania senator Santorum won handily with 51 percent of the vote, compared with 21 percent for Romney, 14 percent for former House speaker Newt Gingrich, and 13 percent for congressman Ron Paul, final results showed. Santorum captured 33 of the 40 Kansas delegates, with Romney taking the other seven. While Romney is the national frontrunner, there is still no definitive candidate to take on Democratic President Barack Obama in the November election. With Kansas in Santorum’s column, the focus moves to the Deep South with contests Tuesday in Alabama and Mississippi. Romney won a second round of caucus votes Saturday in Wyoming, and took most of the delegates in the US Virgin Islands caucus. He also announced he won all nine delegates in Guam, as well as the nine in the Northern Marianas.
Romney won seven of the 12 Wyoming delegates, as Santorum took three and Paul one, the party’s chairman said. The vote Saturday was held in 15 counties. Caucus votes earlier were held in eight other counties. In the Virgin Islands, Romney captured seven of eight delegates even though he was outpolled by Paul 112-101. Because of the territory’s proportional system, Romney won three delegates to one for Paul. He later picked up an uncommitted delegate and had three “superdelegates” previously pledged to him, local party chairman Herbert Schoenbohm said. But ultraconservative Kansas was an unlikely match for him — the former governor of liberal Massachusetts stayed away, focusing instead on the Tuesday primaries. Though Romney consolidated his pole position in this week’s slew of votes, he failed to knock either Santorum or Gingrich out of the race. Paul, a Libertarian Texas representative, is also hanging on, though he has yet to win a single contest. Romney leads the pack overall, having won more than a third of the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination, after 25 contests in the state-by-state Republican race. Big prizes are at stake on Tuesday, when Alabama, with 50 delegates, Mississippi (40) and Hawaii (20) go to the polls. “Santorum’s social conservatism would be expected to play well with Deep Southern voters,” Charles Franklin, co-founder of pollster.com and a professor at Marquette University Law School, told AFP. “But, stylistically, Gingrich, with his long history in the South, maybe is a little more appealing than Santorum’s Yankee charm from Pennsylvania.” Two small polls released Friday predicted a tight race in Alabama between Romney, Gingrich and Santorum, narrowly giving the edge to Gingrich. Former Alabama governor Fob James endorsed Gingrich, saying, “I am certain that Newt is the man to return our country to sound fiscal policy, real solutions for abundant American energy and to defend religious liberty.” In Mississippi a poll by Rasmussen Reports gave Romney 35 percent support, with Santorum and Gingrich both at 27 percent.