Santorum wins Kansas as Gingrich struggles to stay on

Rick Santorum has overwhelmingly won the Kansas Republican presidential caucuses, hoping to blunt front-runner Mitt Romney's momentum in the grinding campaign for the nomination to oppose US President Barack Obama in the November election.

But Mr Romney fought back on Saturday with wins in Wyoming as well as in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the US Virgin Islands.

Mr Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, was considered the favourite in Kansas, where his staunch opposition to abortion and gay marriage resonated with the state's large bloc of evangelical voters. He hoped his victory would give him an advantage heading into tomorrow's unexpectedly pivotal primaries in the southern states of Alabama and Mississippi, where polls show he is dividing the most conservative vote with Newt Gingrich.

Mr Gingrich, struggling for survival in the race, can ill afford a loss in either Mississippi or Alabama. Mr Romney is seeking a Southern breakthrough to demonstrate he can win the support of evangelical voters. Mr Santorum hopes to finally knock Mr Gingrich out of the race and emerge as Mr Romney's sole challenger from the right.

Final returns in Kansas showed Mr Santorum with 51 per cent support, ahead of Mr Romney, who had 21 per cent. Mr Gingrich had 14 per cent and Ron Paul trailed with 13 per cent. In Wyoming, Mr Romney won seven of the 12 delegates at stake, Mr Santorum three, and Mr Paul one.

AP

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