Louisiana Primary Keeps Santorum's Hopes Alive as Gingrich, Paul Fade

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Rick Santorum led front-runner Mitt Romney by a wide margin in Louisiana's primary election. But the results did little to close the delegate gap, and upcoming primaries favor Romney.

The Louisiana primary was a boost for Rick Santorum's presidential hopes. But while Santorum led front-runner Mitt Romney by a wide margin in Louisiana's popular vote Saturday (49-27 percent), the results did little to close the delegate gap between the two.

Meanwhile, between now and early May the GOP primary schedule - northern states with large urban populations - favors Romney, who already has major advantages in campaign funds and organization.

"I think the primary's over," Senator Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday. "Romney will be the nominee."

Santorum notched a mere five-delegate advantage over Romney in Louisiana. But the former Massachusetts governor has accumulated twice as many delegates as Santorum - 568 to 273.

Romney still needs to get to 1,144 to win the nomination. But as the two leading candidates fight their way through the election calendar, it becomes tougher and tougher for Santorum to catch up. He failed to win a spot on the ballot in the District of Columbia, which holds its primary in nine days.

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In Wisconsin, the most delegate-rich state holding the next round of primaries on April 3, Romney and his independent super PAC have plowed more than $2 million into TV advertising. A crush of advertising - mostly negative - eroded Santorum's strength in states such as Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois as he simply couldn't keep pace.

"This race has clearly gotten down to two candidates that can win the nomination," Santorum told reporters in Milwaukee Saturday. "I'd love to have a one-on-one debate."

Romney's team, increasingly confident, dismissed the idea - and with good reason.

Santorum had led in some Wisconsin polls, but momentum there is shifting to Romney, favored 46-33 in a Rasmussen Reports survey out Friday. (Gingrich and Paul remain in single digits in Wisconsin, according to Rasmussen.)

"There is a growing perception that Romney is going to be the nominee [84 percent] and there is a growing perception that he is the strongest candidate against Barack Obama [59 percent]," Scott Rasmussen told the (Milwaukee) Journal Sentinel. …