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Santorum wins Kansas caucuses as Romney takes Wyoming

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum received a campaign boost by winning Saturday's Kansas caucuses, while Newt Gingrich hopes his Southern roots can help him rebound in the upcoming Alabama and Mississippi primaries. NBC's Ron Mott reports.

Updated at 7:45 pm ET

Rick Santorum won the Kansas Republican caucuses Saturday, giving him momentum as he and his GOP rivals sprint towards Tuesday’s primaries in Alabama and Mississippi. 

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Santorum had 51 percent of the vote, with Mitt Romney getting 21 percent, Newt Gingrich 14 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas 12 percent.


In another contest, NBC News declared Romney the projected winner of the Wyoming caucuses. He will pick up six delegates there, with Santorum getting three, Rep. Ron Paul one and one uncommitted.

Santorum's victory in Kansas means that he will win at least 33 of the 40 delegates at stake in that state as he seeks to squeeze Gingrich out of the race, leaving the former Pennsylvania senator as the sole alternative to Romney.

Yet despite Santorum's win in Kansas, Romney still has a commanding lead in the delegate tally, with 377 delegates, according to the NBC News count, compared to 146 for Santorum, 112 for Gingrich and 31 for Paul.

Romney gained 25 delegates Saturday from Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Marianas -- illustrating the decisive edge he has in organization, which is allowing him to compete in all contests and to field full delegate slates.

Larry W. Smith / EPA

Supporters of Rick Santorum carry signs as Karen Santorum is introduced as the speaker for her husband at the Republican caucus in Wichita, Kansas on Saturday.

Santorum has not been able to match Romney in the breadth and depth of his organization and it has cost him delegates, as in Ohio's primary Tuesday, where Santorum did not have full delegate slates in every district in the state.

This week as Santorum campaigned in Kansas, he said, “We have to do well here in Kansas, no, we have to win here in Kansas."

NBC's Mark Murray joins MSNBC to explain why delegates in Mississippi and Alabama could shape the rest of the GOP race.

Santorum campaigned in the state again on Friday as did Texas Rep. Ron Paul, but both Romney and Gingrich skipped Kansas to woo voters in Alabama and Mississippi.

Romney had the support of conservative leader Kris Kobach, who serves as the Kansas Secretary of State. But Republican Gov. Sam Brownback did not endorse a candidate, although he did appear at an event with Santorum in Topeka on Friday and also showed up at Paul’s campaign event to welcome him to the state.

Romney’s allies have been voicing worry that the GOP contest is slogging on without any sign of resolution, even though Romney remains far ahead in the delegate tally. “Every day that goes by is a day that plays to President Obama’s advantage…. because they are fighting against each other, not against their adversary in November,” Romney supporter and 2008 GOP nominee Sen. John McCain told reporters Thursday.