Southern Sweep: Santorum Wins Alabama, Miss.

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The GOP primary race went south Tuesday, and after a week of hearing candidates say "y'all" and talk about eating grits, it's former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum who woke up Wednesday morning with a southern grin.

Santorum came away with wins in Alabama and Mississippi, and as he thanked supporters, he played up his connection with the working class.

"You stood with a guy who comes from the grandson of a coal miner from a steel town in western Pennsylvania," Santorum said.

"But you knew who shared your values and who was going to go out and work for you and make sure that this country is free and safe and prosperous, based on believing in free people, markets and a free economy, and of course the integrity and the centrality of faith in our lives," he told supporters.

Meanwhile, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his staff said the southern states were an "away game" and downplayed expectations, as he made an appearance with comedian Jeff Foxworthy, host of the Fox game show "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader."

"I'm afraid the president has failed the show. Now, I'm kidding, I know he's smarter than a fifth grader," Romney said.

"I sometimes wonder why he does the things he does because they're not good for America," he added. "They're not creating jobs; they're not getting us gasoline that we can afford."

Exit polls showed huge numbers of evangelicals voting in both states. Eight in 10 voters said they are "very worried" about the economy.

"With the recession, I think it's who has the financial know-how to turn our nation around," one woman commented.

"The economy is obviously the big issue, but (also) national defense and there are other things," one man said.

"I think the main thing is who is going to look out for family values and economic recovery of our Gulf coast," another person said.

Meanwhile, Santorum's victory served as a big blow to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's southern strategy.

But even though he didn't win, he pointed out that between Santorum and himsef, conservatives came away with 70 percent of the vote.

"If you're the front-runner and you keep coming in third, you're not much of a front-runner," he said.

Gingrich said he's staying in the race until the GOP convention in August.

In fact, his campaign released a strategy memo highlighting what his advisers call "half time."

They point out that the "fourth quarter" isn't until June when the delegate-rich states of Texas and California vote.

Clearly, this primary fight isn't over. And though there was no victory speech from Romney, he continues to say he is the candidate to take on President Obama. 

"I'm the guy in this race who can beat Barack Obama," he said. "And we've got to get him out of office, you know that? We've got to get that job done."

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