Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz told supporters that as the votes are still being counted, "the networks have called the state of Kansas for us." (Reuters)

Given his horrendous showing in this year's presidential race, it can be difficult to remember that Rick Santorum won 11 states in the 2012 Republican primaries.

It can also be difficult to remember this because few of Santorum's wins were of the marquee variety. After a big -- if very narrow -- win in the Iowa caucuses, here's how Santorum's wins broke down:

6 caucuses/nonbinding primaries

  • Iowa caucuses
  • Colorado caucuses
  • Minnesota caucuses
  • Missouri nonbinding primary
  • North Dakota caucuses
  • Kansas caucuses

5 Southern primaries

  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Alabama
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana

That's it. There were basically two categories of states that Santorum won: caucuses -- where turnout is lower, conservatives tend to be over-represented, organization helps and campaigns tend to spend less time and money -- and Southern primaries -- where the GOP electorate is heavily Christian and heavily conservative.

Now, look at the seven states Mike Huckabee won in 2008 -- again, including Iowa.

3 caucuses

  • Iowa caucuses
  • West Virginia caucuses
  • Kansas caucuses

4 Southern primaries

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Tennessee

Same two categories.

Now, take a look at the six states that Sen. Ted Cruz has won in 2016 so far, following his two wins in Kansas and Maine on Saturday.

4 caucuses 

  • Iowa caucuses
  • Alaska caucuses
  • Kansas caucuses
  • Maine caucuses

2 Southern primaries

  • Oklahoma
  • Texas

Two categories. Like Santorum and Huckabee, Cruz is winning something. Given that Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. John Kasich, well, aren't winning much of anything, that's good for him.

And as we noted late Saturday night, Cruz's performance will also likely give him a shot in the arm. That goes double because he appears to have done very well among Louisianans who actually voted Saturday -- versus early voters.

But let's not confuse what Cruz has done so far with winning big states that portend future success. Cruz, to his credit, won Iowa. Since then, he has won a few small and less-emphasized caucuses. And he has won his home state of Texas and a neighbor with which it shares many of the same qualities, Oklahoma. Even his late but unsuccessful surge Saturday came in Louisiana -- another state that borders Texas.

The difference between Cruz and Santorum/Huckabee, at least so far, is that they are winning different parts of the South. Indeed, if anything, Santorum and Huckabee were better Southern candidates than Cruz is, carrying three and two Deep South states, respectively. Cruz has lost all four Deep South states that have voted so far.

With the vast majority of the South now having voted, and with caucuses in small states offering limited delegate prizes, this is not a path that Cruz can ride to victory. He needs to win big-state primaries in different parts of the country. Maybe Saturday's results will spur some momentum elsewhere! Maybe they will lead Rubio and Kasich to drop out, thereby helping Cruz! Or maybe the takeaway is that Cruz can't even win in the South.

If nothing else, claiming several victories so far could help Cruz stake his claim to being the only candidate who can beat Trump. At this point, that's a fair and valuable argument to make -- even if it's unlikely to get Rubio and Kasich out of the race before both their home states vote on March 15.

So while Cruz has proven he can win states, he hasn't yet proven he can win the kinds of states he needs to. And until he breaks out of the unsuccessful mold set by Santorum and Huckabee, the math will continue to be difficult for him.

Can he do it? Of course. I would say that, if anything, Cruz's appeal has the potential to eclipse that of Huckabee and Santorum, who both had very limited resources and were never taken seriously as potential nominees.

But so far, Cruz hasn't really won anything that they didn't. And until he wins a Midwestern state, a Northeastern state or a Western state, it's hard to see how he knocks Trump off his pedestal and starts really putting a dent in the delegate count that, after all, is what matters now.