Eric Gay, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Rick Santorum is spending early Tuesday with his family at their home near Washington as voters in Mississippi and Alabama weigh in on the Republican presidential field.
Santorum is set to fly later to Louisiana, which has its contest on March 24, for a rally in Lafayette that he hopes will turn into a celebration of a pair of victories in the deeply conservative states where he has spent much of the last week.
Santorum advisers are looking to best rival Newt Gingrich in his Southern stronghold and force him from the race so Santorum emerges as the chief opponent for campaign front-runner Mitt Romney.
"It's very, very clear where this race is heading," Santorum told supporters in Montgomery, Ala., before flying home to the Washington area.
"If the people of Alabama and Mississippi are willing to step up for us and say we want this to get to a two-person race, we want this to be a race where we have the opportunity — not at convention but before a convention — to nominate somebody who can stand up for the values that the people of Alabama believe in and vote for every day," he said.
Santorum trailed in delegate tallies heading into Tuesday. Romney is on pace to reach the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination in June. He has 454 delegates to Santorum's 217, according to an Associated Press count. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has 107 delegates and Texas Rep. Ron Paul has 47.
Santorum argues that the race is not yet over and the party must not nominate a Republican with Romney's record of policy shifts on issues such as abortion and gay rights.
"We already have a president who doesn't tell the truth," he said. "We don't need to nominate someone else who has that same problem."
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