Santorum Asks Conservatives To Pull Together

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum won Republican primaries in Mississippi and Alabama Tuesday night. The victories underscore his appeal with the conservative base of the Republican Party.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And last night brought another turn among many in the Republican presidential race.

RICK SANTORUM: We did it again.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)

MONTAGNE: Rick Santorum emerged victorious from competitive contests in Alabama and Mississippi, reflecting his appeal with the conservative base of the Republican Party. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: They weren't whistling Dixie when news came that Santorum swept Alabama and Mississippi, but a couple of his supporters did offer this anthem to their candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) ...victory tonight, got a man who understands that God gave the Bill of Rights.

ELLIOTT: There will be justice for the unborn, factories back on our shores, they sang. Santorum held his election night rally in Lafayette, Louisiana. He came to Cajun county to lay claim to the next Deep South state up for grabs in the GOP presidential race. The primary here is next week. Santorum said Southern conservatives stuck with him even though the odds and the establishment were against his candidacy.

SANTORUM: The time is now for conservatives to pull together. The time is now to make sure, to make sure that we have the best chance to win this election. And the best chance to win this election is to nominate a conservative to go up against Barack Obama, who can take him on on every issue.

ELLIOTT: Pressure is mounting for former Speaker Newt Gingrich to drop out so that the conservative vote isn't split. Santorum wants a head to head contest with the more moderate Mitt Romney. Santorum supporter Kevin Roberts is headmaster of a Catholic school in Lafayette.

KEVIN ROBERTS: He just needs to get out of the way as a gentleman. You know, as a historian he knows it's time to step aside.

ELLIOTT: Even though Gingrich's Southern strategy doesn't appear to be working, he says he's staying in the race.

Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Lafayette, Louisiana.

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