Tennessee primary results: Rick Santorum declared winner

March 6, 2012

Rick Santorum has been declared the winner of the Tennessee GOP primary. As The Fix team reported:

Rick Santorum won the primary in the Volunteer State.

Tennessee was the night’s second-most-contested prize, after Ohio, and there was some thought that Mitt Romney might give Santorum a challenge.

Moderate businessmen have done well in the state in recent years, beating more conservative opponents in Republican Senate and gubernatorial primaries.

But Santorum held off Romney on Tuesday, winning a state dominated by religious and very conservative voters — the kind of Republicans on whom the former senator has built his campaign.

Santorum dominated Tennessee’s more rural counties, while Romney performed better in urban areas near Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville.

Romney finished third in Tennessee in 2008, so he did show some improvement.

Polling analysis from Behind the Numbers

The Tennessee electorate turned out to be the most evangelical so far in the Republican nomination fight, helping secure a victory for former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.

Seventy-six percent of voters were evangelical Christians in Tennessee, edging out the group’s turnout in Georgia and South Carolina, two states that went to Newt Gingrich. Over four in 10 evangelicals voted for Santorum while about a quarter supported Gingrich and Mitt Romney each.

Electability remained a strong suit for Romney in Tennessee. Nearly four in 10 voters said ability to beat Obama is the most important candidate attribute, and Romney beat out Santorum and Gingrich among these voters. But just as many voters in Tennessee said they are looking for a candidate who is a “true conservative” or someone with strong moral character. These values voters picked Santorum by an overwhelming margin.

Analysis from The Fix: If you want a sleeper pick for Super Tuesday’s most interesting race, it’s the Volunteer State primary. Rick Santorum is up big here early, but Newt Gingrich could give him a run for his money. And if they split the conservative vote up, maybe Mitt Romney shoots the gap. A moderate businessman winning in Tennessee? It’s actually happened before — plenty of times.

More from PostPolitics

Liveblog: Super Tuesday results

Interactive: 2012 Republican primary tracker

The Take: What Obama can teach the GOP

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