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Country Strong: Santorum Still Flexing His Muscles in Rural America

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Santorum has won more than double the number of counties as the rest of the GOP field combined with Romney carrying less than one-quarter

ricksantorum13.jpgAccording to ABC News, Rick Santorum touted his candidacy on the campaign trail in Wisconsin Sunday with the following argument: "I've won 937 counties, Mitt Romney's won barely over 300."

Smart Politics has been documenting Santorum's dominance over Romney (and the rest of the GOP field) on this interesting (but somewhat deceiving) metric since before Super Tuesday - a metric which is essentially shorthand for the former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator's large support outside of heavily populated urban areas.

At that time, Santorum had won approximately 58 percent of the counties through the first 11 contests.

But even though Santorum has lost nine of the 16 states since, the data is still on his side - and he will probably add to his lead in counties won after the results come in Tuesday night in Wisconsin and Maryland where he trails in the polls.

A Smart Politics tabulation of voting through the first 29 Republican primaries and caucuses of the 2012 presidential cycle finds that Rick Santorum has won more than twice as many counties (902) as Mitt Romney (411.5) and more than all of his Republican opponents combined (788).

(Note: The data excludes North Dakota (whose Republican party released caucus totals by legislative district, not counties) and Alaska (whose caucus totals were not available in its 18 organized boroughs and unorganized boroughs). Additionally, no votes were counted in 15 counties in Kansas and one county in Hawaii).

Santorum is actually a bit shy of his 937 county-win claim.

The GOP underdog has won 902 counties, or 54.1 percent of the 1,674 counties reporting vote totals across these more than two-dozen states.

Santorum also under-inflated Romney's tally when he said he had won "barely over 300."

The former Massachusetts governor has carried 411.5 counties to date - though still a far cry from Santorum and less than one-quarter of all counties that have voted thus far (24.7 percent).

Newt Gingrich is in third with 297.5 counties won, or 17.8 percent, with Ron Paul at 61 (3.7 percent) and Rick Perry at two (0.1 percent).

Overall the winners of the most counties for each respective state are:

· Santorum with 14: Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado, Missouri, Michigan, Wyoming, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Illinois, and Louisiana (parishes).

· Romney with 10: New Hampshire, Nevada, Maine, Arizona, Washington, Idaho, Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, and Hawaii.

· Gingrich with 3: South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia.

In North Dakota, Santorum won 34 of the state's 47 legislative districts, with Ron Paul taking 7.5 and Romney winning 5.5.

Mitt Romney has carried at least one county in every state except Missouri and Minnesota while Santorum has won counties in 17 states with Paul doing so in 10 and Gingrich in nine.

Of course, it is ultimately the number of votes, not the number of counties, that shapes the delegate count and determines the nominee.

Still, as Romney seeks to cash in on his frontrunner status to convince his opponents to end their presidential bids, it would serve the former Massachusetts governor well if he could make larger inroads into Santorum country, thus minimizing the urban-rural divide that turns up on most primary night maps.

Despite trailing in the polls in both states, Santorum might very well run up his county victory tally vis-à-vis Romney on Tuesday evening, with 72 counties voting in Wisconsin and just 24 in Maryland.

Number of Counties Carried by Republican Presidential Candidates in Primaries and Caucuses

State
Santorum
Romney
Gingrich
Paul
Perry
Total
Iowa
64.5
16
0
16.5
2
99
New Hampshire
0
9
0
1
0
10
South Carolina
0
3
43
0
---
46
Florida
0
33
34
0
---
67
Nevada
0
13
1
2
---
16
Minnesota
82.5
0
0
4.5
---
87
Colorado
45
18
1
0
---
64
Missouri
114
0
---
0
---
114
Maine
1
8
0
7
---
16
Michigan
53
30
0
0
---
83
Arizona
0
15
0
0
---
15
Wyoming
10
8
0
5
---
23
Washington
4
26
0
9
---
39
Georgia
0
3
156
0
---
159
Idaho
7
31
0
6
---
44
Massachusetts
0
14
0
0
---
14
Ohio
69
19
0
0
---
88
Oklahoma
64.5
2
10.5
0
---
77
Tennessee
91
3
1
0
---
95
Vermont
0
14
0
0
---
14
Virginia
---
86
---
9
---
95
Kansas*
89
1
0
0
---
90*
Alabama
35.5
4
27.5
0
---
67
Hawaii*
0
3
0
1
---
4*
Mississippi
35
23.5
23.5
0
---
82
Illinois
74
28
0
0
---
102
Louisiana
63
1
0
0
---
64
Total
902
411.5
297.5
61
2
1,674
Percent
54.1
24.7
17.8
3.7
0.1
--- 
* Does not include 15 counties in Kansas and one county in Hawaii in which no votes were reported. Table also excludes the states of Alaska (which is organized by boroughs) and North Dakota (whose caucus totals were tabulated by legislative districts). County co-winners credited with a 0.5 points. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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