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Rick Santorum wins Louisiana primary

Holly Bailey, Yahoo News
The Ticket

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Santorum bowling in Wisconsin on Saturday (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Rick Santorum won Louisiana's Republican primary on Saturday, according to the Associated Press, proving again that he has major appeal among the party's conservative Southern base.

But with just 20 delegates at stake, the Louisiana win is unlikely to change the narrative of the GOP nominating contest, in which Mitt Romney maintains a commanding lead in the delegate race.

Santorum walked away with at least eight of the 20 delegates up for grabs, while Romney came in second, according to CNN. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul were third and fourth and didn't win any delegates.

Heading into Saturday, Mitt Romney had more than double the number of delegates than Santorum had in their quest to win the Republican nomination. Per the Associated Press, Romney had 563 delegates, compared to Santorum's 263. Newt Gingrich had just 135 and Ron Paul had only 53. In a conference call last week, Santorum's campaign argued the numbers are actually closer than reported because news organizations have not taken into account possible delegate shifts at state and county conventions.

While Louisiana has a total of 46 delegates at stake, just 20 were in play on Saturday. The rest will be determined at the state convention in June. While Louisiana is not a "winner take all" state, candidates in the race still had to reach a 25 percent threshold in the statewide popular vote in order to actually receive any delegates, giving an advantage to Santorum.

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Tonight's results are likely to amp up the pressure on Gingrich to leave the race. The former House speaker has won just two primaries—South Carolina and his home state of Georgia. His inability to rack up key victories in southern states like Louisiana where his candidacy had perhaps its most appeal makes his path to the nomination all the more difficult.

But Gingrich has given no signs he's willing to exit the race, as the focus now shifts to a slate of contests on Apr. 3 where Romney is favored to win: Maryland, the District of Columbia and Wisconsin. All three primaries are "winner take all," which offers little opportunity for Romney's rivals to catch up unless they score a surprise win.

While it is still mathematically possible for someone other than Romney to win the nomination, it is increasingly unlikely, although Romney still has a long way to go in reaching the 1,144 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination.

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