The long, bruising fight to pick a Republican opponent to President Barack Obama this fall rumbles into the Deep South this week for a pair of now pivotal and tight races.
The twin primaries in Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday follow a pair of weekend caucuses split by Rick Santorum and front-runner Mitt Romney. Santorum romped in Kansas while Romney took Wyoming.
Polls show a close race in the two upcoming contests, particularly in Alabama, where Romney, Santorum and Newt Gingrich all added to their TV advertising.
A Gingrich aide has said the former House speaker must win both Southern primaries. But Gingrich strongly suggested otherwise on Friday. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, is seeking a Southern breakthrough to show he can win the support of evangelical voters.
Santorum hopes to knock Gingrich out of the contest and emerge as Romney's sole challenger.