Santorum wins Alabama and Mississippi (and you read it here first)

Chris Wilson
The SignalMarch 14, 2012

10:52 p.m. We're pleased to have been the first to call Mississippi, which several major outlets now confirm. The two victories feed the narrative that Romney cannot win among traditional conservatives, but do little to change the delegate math that still favors the former governor.

10:29 p.m. ET: The Signal is tentatively calling Mississippi for Rick Santorum, who leads the state by 1.2 percentage points with 80 percent of the vote reported. While that is still a small lead, it is one that will be difficult for either Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney to close, as there appear to be few pockets of major support for either candidate still outstanding.

The two-state sweep for Santorum is particularly bad news for Newt Gingrich, who was counting on the states to keep his campaign alive. At the beginning of the day, the prediction markets gave him only a 20 percent chance to drop out by the end of the month. Those odds currently sit at 65.5 percent.

10:17 p.m. ET: Mitt Romney's night continues to go badly as his odds of winning Mississippi are now plummeting. He's in third place with 65 percent of the vote reported, and has dropped in the markets from 80 percent an hour ago to 3 percent now. The markets remain volatile.

10:00 p.m. ET: The Signal is calling Alabama for Rick Santorum (as NBC News did a few minutes ago). Santorum has 34 percent of the vote with 35 percent of the vote in, and a county-by-county analysis suggests there's little chance that either Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney can catch him. The markets give Santorum a 98 percent chance of victory.

9:34 p.m. ET: The markets remain confident in a Santorum victory in Alabama, but have cooled on Romney's prospects in Mississippi. He still leads, but now with a 61 percent chance of victory and Santorum clings to a lead with 26 percent of votes reporting. Like we saw in Ohio, however, the urban areas that typically tilt toward Romney are slower to report, suggesting the picture for Romney in Mississippi will improve as the night goes on.

8:50 p.m. ET: With the vast majority of returns still unreported in Mississippi and Alabama, the political markets are already confident that Mitt Romney will win the former while Rick Santorum will take the latter. The former Massachusetts governor currently has an over 80 percent chance of winning Mississippi, while his chief rival for the nomination, Santorum, has nearly 90 percent odds in Alabama.

Newt Gingrich has single-digit odds in both states. Things were looking cautiously optimistic for the former speaker earlier in the day. Gingrich has said he is in the race through the nomination, but many spectators are skeptical that his campaign can stay alive without a win tonight.

Very early returns do indeed show leads for Romney and Santorum in Mississippi and Alabama, respectively, but it is far too early to project winners in either.