Instead, Romney now faces a resurgent Santorum — and he is without the overwhelming financial advantage he boasted throughout the early states. Romney's campaign trimmed some spending in recent weeks as he was forced to spend more time campaigning and less time fundraising. Still, he's got more delegates than his rivals combined.
Santorum's victories Tuesday were worth at least 35 delegates, but Romney won at least 41. Gingrich won at least 24, while Ron Paul picked up at least one. The delegate split underscored the difficulty Romney's rivals face in overcoming his big lead.
The partial allocation of delegates from Tuesday's voting states left Romney with 495 in The Associated Press count, out of the 1,144 needed to win the nomination. Santorum had 252, Gingrich 131 and Paul 48.
And while Santorum in particular challenges the mathematical projections, Romney is amassing delegates at a rate that puts him on track to clinch control of the nomination before the convention next summer.
A senior Romney adviser, Jim Talent, said the campaign is where it needs to be. "We're really running against the delegate totals more than any of the others," Talent told CNN on Wednesday.
Gingrich deputy campaign manager Vince Haley suggested the former House speaker was putting himself in position to compete at a brokered convention, saying Gingrich could "win a debate in this country over the course of the rest of this campaign."
It is rare for Alabama and Mississippi to play an important role in a Republican nominating campaign, but the 2012 race has gone on far longer than usual.
Associated Press writers Stephen Ohlemacher and Connie Cass in Washington contributed to this report.
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