NASHVILLE-- Rick Santorum may have swept Tennessee, but it wasn’t Santorum’s staff that stopped by to spin the media at the Country Music Hall of Fame, where the Republican Party of Tennessee set up its election night monitoring station across the lobby from a Trace Adkins recording session.


(Winslow Townson/AP)

In a sign of the relative organizational strengths of the two campaigns in the state, only Mitt Romney’s campaign sent aides to the museum, to stand in front of a wall of shiny guitars and speak to local and national television cameras about why Romney’s loss was actually a win in the southern state.

“We are very pleased with where we’ve come with this campaign. It’s a result of a tremendous effort. A lot of people pulled together to make this happen. We closed a gap that was 20 points not a week ago to an amazingly tight race,” said Bill Hagerty, who served as finance chairman of Romney’s 2008 campaign and is now a national strategist with the current campaign.

Hagerty said that Santorum had done well in early voting in Tennessee, which closed a week ago, votes that came in at a time he was surging nationally following wins in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado. But, he claimed, Romney had done well with live voting on Tuesday.

“Gov. Romney has come in, he’s successfully proven that he can play in the south,” said Hagerty, who is commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. “And I think it’s a beacon for Mississippi, for Alabama, they go in a week, for Louisiana that goes in 10 days after that, that we can play in the South.

Party Chairman Chris Devaney said Santorum’s message got through to Tennessee voters, no matter the level of his organization in the state.

“In Tennessee, you have to appeal to a broad range of voters. Certainly, traditional values, understanding that you can’t tax and spend your way to prosperity. I think that Santorum message obviously resonated here with voters,” he said.