Santorum Wins Weekend Primary In Louisiana

For the first time since February, there's no Republican nomination contest this week. Over the weekend, in the Louisiana primary, Rick Santorum won big. But overall, Mitt Romney continues to hold a decisive lead in delegates.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

It has probably sounded like a broken record. Each week we tell you which state is holding a Republican presidential primary. Well, for the first time since February, there's no GOP nomination contest this week. A brief break from politics.

Over the weekend, in the Louisiana primary, Rick Santorum won big. But overall, Mitt Romney continues to hold a decisive lead in delegates. Newt Gingrich hoped to do well in Louisiana, but finished a distant third. Still, he insists he's in this until the Republican convention in Tampa in August.

As the candidates continue to battle it out on the stump, congressional debates going on in Washington are likely to affect the campaign. And joining us, as she does most Mondays, is commentator Cokie Roberts.

Good morning, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, David.

GREENE: Well, let's start with Santorum's latest win in what's your home state, Louisiana, over the weekend. What does that do for him?

ROBERTS: Well, it doesn't do much for him, because it is typical now for Santorum to win a state like Louisiana. I mean, what we've now seen in these Republican contests is that the victor depends on the demography of the state. And so a state like Louisiana that has a very large, very conservative base in the Republican Party is going to go to Santorum. And a state like Ohio, which is more diverse, is going to go for Romney. That's what we're seeing.

And so the good news for Romney is that there aren't a lot of states like Louisiana coming up next. He has a more fertile territory in the states ahead. But it does show that Santorum can hang in there and win with people who are the Republican base.

The one sort of odd thing that does happen is that with the exception of Louisiana Santorum tends to lose the Catholic vote, even though he is running as a very conservative Catholic. But other than that, we can pretty much look at a state and say who's going to win it.

GREENE: Well, if that back and forth keeps going - I mean, if Santorum hangs on, as you say - I mean, given the math of this situation, Republican elected officials are beginning to lean on the non-Romney candidates to get out of the race, to admit that, you know, Romney has the delegate count. I mean, is that going to happen at some point?

ROBERTS: I don't think so. With all of that pressure, on Saturday, 70 percent of the Republicans in Louisiana, according to the exit polls, said they want this contest to continue. They don't want it over with. Yes.

And Santorum is now fighting in Wisconsin. It's the only state coming up that he thinks he has a shot in. And yesterday he said that Romney was the worst candidate the party could nominate against Obama. He later said, well, he meant he was talking about taking on health care. So he's not giving up by any means.

And, as you said earlier, Newt Gingrich, despite being a poor third in the south where he expected to do well, says he's hanging in. And Ron Paul is just going to keep on running.

GREENE: Well, in the middle of all of this running, all of the politicking, Cokie, the Republican chairman of the House budget committee proposed a federal budget for Congress to enact. And, I mean, the thinking is always that during a campaign, you know, nothing is actually going to happen, not much anyway, on Capitol Hill. But what happens to that budget proposal in the context of the whole campaign?

ROBERTS: Well, it becomes fodder for the Democrats, particularly in the short term. You saw Vice President Biden and the president's campaign director, David Plouffe, out over the weekend tying the Republican candidates to this budget, which does severely affect Medicare, which the Democrats hope they can use on the campaign trail.

And, you know, this is a short term fight. In an election year, nobody's much worried about the long term. And it is true that if you're going to take on big programs like Medicare, like social security, we know the only real way to do that is in a bipartisan fashion, usually not in an election year. But the Republicans are bringing it out there. And we'll see what the effect of that is on the campaign.

GREENE: All right, Cokie. Good to be with you as always.

That's political analysis from Cokie Roberts.

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