Presidential Race

The GOP Contest: Louisiana And Beyond

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Louisiana holds its Republican primary Saturday. Guest host Laura Sullivan talks with NPR's Don Gonyea about the state of play in the race for the GOP presidential nomination.


It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Laura Sullivan, in for Guy Raz.

The Republican nominating contest is back in the South today as primary voters cast their ballots in Louisiana. A little earlier, we caught up with NPR's national political correspondent Don Gonyea who's on the road in Louisiana. Don, where are you now?

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: I am standing outside a very sleepy polling place in Lafayette, Louisiana. I started out in Shreveport this morning in the far northwestern corner of the state. And I have been kind of working my way southeast toward New Orleans, stopping at polling places along the way in Shreveport, Alexandria, and now at Lafayette.

But listen, the numbers turn out is very light on what is a very gorgeous Saturday. I haven't seen a cloud in the sky. But I just talked to the precinct captain here. There are 1,380 eligible voters at this particular spot. And as of 2 p.m. local time, 53 people had voted. So that's - I did the math, 3.8 percent. So, very low turnout.

SULLIVAN: Well, you've been to a couple of those polling stations already. What are you hearing from the voters?

GONYEA: Well, the polls have told us that it should be a good day for Rick Santorum. He has had a double-digit lead over Mitt Romney in second place for weeks here. And it has held. And I can tell you, the small unscientific sample I have talked to has been overwhelmingly for Santorum. And overwhelmingly, people tell me they think he is the guy who can beat Barack Obama. They know it's a long shot for him at this point, they know that Mitt Romney has a big delegate lead, but they're getting a chance to vote here in Louisiana. And one guy said to me, if I like Rick Santorum, I have to vote for him.

SULLIVAN: What's at stake for each of them, Santorum, Gingrich and, of course, Romney?

GONYEA: Well, let's start with Santorum. Because he is polling so well here, the expectations are that he will win here. But it's not just that he likely will win here, it's that he really needs to win here. Again, he is way behind in the delegate race. He's a long shot for the nomination anyway at this point. So he has to do well in a lot of places, but especially in a place like this.

Mitt Romney? Romney is collecting delegates and putting them in the basket. There are 20 at stake, and he doesn't need to win, he doesn't even need to make it particularly close to still pick up maybe half of the delegates or so. So he's working on that, and he'll be happy with that.

Newt Gingrich is really in a place where there is just no way the math works for him at all. He is in the race because he feels like being in the race. I do encounter some supporters of his. His only hope is it's like a double-bank shot. First, a brokered convention or a contested convention and then a contested convention that turns to him even though he finished, you know, well back in the pack in the primaries.

SULLIVAN: That was NPR's national political correspondent Don Gonyea. Thanks, Don.

GONYEA: Thank you.

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