Republicans in three-way battle in Deep South

Republicans Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney battled on Monday for conservative support in Mississippi and Alabama ahead of presidential primaries that polls showed have turned into tense three-way ties.

The stakes are high for all of the contenders in Tuesday’s Deep South contests, with Gingrich fighting to keep his struggling campaign alive and Santorum hoping for a knockout blow that would consolidate conservative opposition to front-runner Mitt Romney.

The southern primaries, originally seen as a fight between conservatives Romney and Santorum, gained a new edge with an unexpected strong showing by Romney in polls.

For Romney, a win in either state would be a landmark breakthrough that would signal his ability to capture conservative support in the party’s Deep South strongholds and put him on a path to the nomination.

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