Polls closed an hour ago in Alabama and Mississippi, but there is still no clear picture of how the night will shake out, other than it may be a late one. Rick Santorum leads in Mississippi by a hair with 12 percent of the vote in, and by 6 points in Alabama with just 4 percent reporting. But the political prediction markets, reacting primarily to exit polls, suggest Romney will ultimately take back the lead in Mississippi.
Prior to the elections, all four candidates spent time campaigning in the region. Santorum this week downplayed his chances of sweeping the night like he did in February in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, but said it was important to place well in order to carry on.
“We’ve got to come in here and do well,” Santorum said during a stop in Tuscaloosa on Monday.
Over the past month, money from super PACs supporting the candidates poured in both states. According to a Bloomberg News analysis of marketing data, the groups “supplied 91 percent of the 5,592 campaign ads that aired on broadcast television stations in the two states in the past month,” with pro- Romney ads making up “65 percent of all ads.”
In the days leading up to the primaries, polls showed tight races in Mississippi and Alabama. TheReal Clear Politics polling average in Alabama put Gingrich in the lead by less than one percentage point over Romney, with Santorum trailing by just three percentage points. In Mississippi, the polling data was similar but much spottier, with Gingrich leading Romney by two percentage points and Santorum by five according to a single Public Policy Polling survey.
Republicans in American Somoa and Hawaii are also voting today, but results from those contests won’t be made available for several hours.
Up next is a 52-delegate caucus in Missouri–where Santorum won a so-called “beauty contest” election last month–followed by primaries in Puerto Rico, Illinois and Louisiana over the next few weeks.