Rick Santorum scored two upset victories Tuesday night in the Alabama and Mississippi primaries, topping rivals Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich and solidifying his place as the “conservative alternative” to front-runner Romney.

Despite Santorum’s wins, voters in Alabama and Mississippi were split three ways, with no one candidate dominating either race.

With 94 percent of the vote in in Alabama, Santorum had 35 percent, Gingrich 29 percent and Romney 29 percent. Ron Paul ran fourth with 5 percent. With 98 percent of precincts reporting in Mississippi, Santorum had 33 percent of the vote, Gingrich 31 percent and Romney 30 percent. Paul had 4 percent.

The Deep South primaries had been expected to set up well for Gingrich, the former House speaker from Georgia, but his inability to win either Alabama or Mississippi deals a major blow to his presidential aspirations and gives Santorum the firepower to stake his claim as the more-electable conservative challenger to Romney.

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