MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama's governor hadn't publicly made an endorsement in today's GOP primary -- but today, a spokesman says, Gov. Robert Bentley voted for Rick Santorum. The spokesman says he believes Santorum is "the most conservative candidate" in the race.
Voters in Mississippi are also choosing among the Republican candidates, with polls showing a competitive three-way battle. Mitt Romney hopes for his first victory in the Deep South to seal his status as Republican presidential front-runner. Santorum hopes to knock Newt Gingrich out of the race.
Gingrich is spending the day in Birmingham, Ala., as he waits to see if he can pull off victories today. The future of his candidacy largely rests on today's results. Santorum plans to watch returns from Louisiana, which holds its primary March 24.
Romney has moved on to Missouri. In an outdoor speech in St. Louis today, he ignored his GOP rivals and criticized President Barack Obama's handling of the economy, health care, foreign policy and gasoline prices.
The Southern showdown comes as new polling finds a steep drop in Obama's approval ratings, amid escalating prices at the pump and renewed turbulence in the Middle East.
086-a-08-(Rick Santorum, Republican presidential candidate, in campaign speech)-"who supported both"-Former Senator Rick Santorum, R-Pa., says, unlike Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, he has been consistent in his opposition to President Obama's health care law. (13 Mar 2012)
<<CUT *086 (03/13/12)>> 00:08 "who supported both"
311-a-08-(Unidentified Alabama man, in AP interview)-"faith and values"-This Alabama man said he would be unlikely to vote for Mitt Romney. (12 Mar 2012)
<<CUT *311 (03/12/12)>> 00:08 "faith and values"
313-a-15-(Randy Adamy (AD'-ah-mee), Alabama man, in AP interview)-"with leadership capabilities"-Randy Adamy says he and his wife like Mitt Romney regardless of his religion. (12 Mar 2012)
<<CUT *313 (03/12/12)>> 00:15 "with leadership capabilities"
089-a-15-(Newt Gingrich, former House Speaker, Republican presidential candidate, in campaign speech)-"as a country"-Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich appeals voters in Alabama to choose him in Tuesday's primary. (13 Mar 2012)
<<CUT *089 (03/13/12)>> 00:15 "as a country"
GRAPHICSBANK 1130816: Rick Santorum headshot, as 2012 Republican presidential candidate, Ocean Springs, Mississippi, graphic element on gray (12 Mar 2012)
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GRAPHICSBANK 1130856: Newt Gingrich headshot, as Republican US presidential candidate during campaign stop, Biloxi, Mississippi, graphic element on gray (12 Mar 2012)
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APPHOTO ALDG102: Danny Cooper, of Chilton County, Ala. waves to motorists outside a polling place, Tuesday, March 13, 2012, in Vestavia Hills, Ala. Alabama voters would be deciding Tuesday whether Mitt Romney has deep South appeal, if it's time for Newt Gingrich to go forward or go home, and whether Rick Santorum can trim the Republican field. (AP Photo/David Goldman) (13 Mar 2012)
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APPHOTO ALEG110: Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum visits with supporters during a rally, Monday, March 12, 2012, in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (12 Mar 2012)
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APPHOTO MOEV105: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks in St. Louis, Mo., Tuesday, March 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (13 Mar 2012)
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APPHOTO ALBD102: Presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich listens while participating in the Rick & Bubba radio show, Tuesday, March 13, 2012, in Vestavia, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) (13 Mar 2012)
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