Santorum wins Kansas caucuses, AP reports

Republican presidential candidate, former Sen. Rick Santorum, speaks to supporters at Harvest Graphics, a small business, during a campaign stop on March 7, 2012 in Lenexa, Kansas. Julie Denesha/Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate, former Sen. Rick Santorum, speaks to supporters at Harvest Graphics, a small business, during a campaign stop on March 7, 2012 in Lenexa, Kansas.
Julie Denesha/Getty Images

Last Updated 6:14 p.m. ET

(CBS News) Rick Santorum pulled out a decisive victory in Saturday's caucuses in Kansas, the Associated Press reports. The win gives the former Pennsylvania senator his eighth victory in the Republican primary season and keeps his candidacy alive.

With all 127 precincts reporting, Santorum has 51 percent of the vote and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was in a distant second, pulling in 21 percent. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are in third and fourth place, with 14 and 13 percent, respectively.

"It's not quite as good as what you folks did in Missouri a few weeks back, but we are so appreciative," Santorum told supporters in Springfiled, Missouri.

Despite the lack of polling conducted in the Jayhawk State prior to Saturday's nominating contest, Santorum was expected to do well, as neither Mitt Romney nor Newt Gingrich campaigned there. Furthermore, voters in Kansas are socially conservative and are more apt to support a Santorum candidacy. 

Kansas is just one of five contests held Saturday - 2 states and 3 U.S. territories - and will award 40 delegates, more than any other contest being held today.

The win is a delegate boost for Santorum, but his path to obtaining 1,144 delegates remains difficult. Prior to Saturday's contests, Romney is in the lead with 396 delegates to Santorum's 146.

Romney got his own boost Saturday by winning Guam and the Northern Marianas caucuses, obtaining 9 delegates from each. In Guam, all 215 participants raised their hand in support of the former Massachusetts governor. In the Northern Marianas, Romney won 87 percent of the 848 votes cast.

Wyoming's five-day-long caucus process also comes to a close on Saturday. A straw poll held more than a week ago gave Romney the lead, but official results are not expected until Saturday evening.

After all the caucuses are closed and results are counted today, nearly half of all contests will be completed: 24 states and 3 territories.

Up next: Mississippi, Alabama, Hawaii and America Samoa voice their preference Tuesday, but all eyes are on the two Southern states. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has put all of his stock in the South and it is widely believed he must win in both states to keep his candidacy alive.

Meanwhile, Romney has been campaigning in the South, and recent polls show the candidates are locked in tough races in both states. An American Research Group poll has Gingrich leading Mississippi with 35 percent and Romney a close second with 31 percent, which is within the margin of error.

A Rasmussen poll released Friday gives another snapshot of voter preference in Mississippi. It has Romney ahead by 8 points over Gingrich and Santorum.

As for Alabama, a second Rasmussen poll shows all three candidates are tied.

Additional reporting by Rebecca Kaplan and Corbett B. Daly.

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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