GOP Candidates Duke it Out for Southern Delegates

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The Republican presidential candidates are now focused on the south, as Alabama and Mississippi prepare to hold primaries Tuesday.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum won the biggest contest this past weekend in Kansas. Still, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney continues to pad his lead in the delegate count.

Recent polls also show President Barack Obama losing ground to the GOP candidates.

Romney is calling the contests in the South "an away game" for him that will be difficult to win. But his status as front-runner and his economic message may be enough to boost his delegate count in the Bible belt.

"I'm comfortable with cutting our spending, capping our spending and balancing our books, getting America fiscally strong," Romney said during a Mississippi campaign stop.

Two new polls from ABC News-Washington Post and Rasmussen both show Romney leading President Obama. Rasmussen researchers also gave Santorum the nod in a hypothetical match with President Obama.

The issue hurting the president the most is gas prices. And the Republican candidates have noticed.

Romney noted at a recent rally that the price of gas has "doubled under this president."

Gingrich went a step further, saying Obama "really wants very expensive gasoline."

"He has a two-letter energy policy: N-O," Santorum criticized.

Santorum's challenge this week is to beat Gingrich, and hope that the former speaker will decide to bow out of the race.

"I think the better opportunity to make sure that we nominate a conservative is to give us an opportunity to go head-to-head with Gov. Romney at some point," Santorum said recently.

"And hopefully, that will occur sooner rather than later, but we'll wait and see what the speaker decides," he said.

But Gingrich, who was buoyed by his big win last week in Georgia, is still strong in the South with his promise of lower gas prices and his sermons on the nation's Judeo-Christian roots.

"According to the Declaration, we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. That means power comes from God to each one of you personally," Gingrich said in Mississippi.

"You are personally sovereign," he continued. "In America, you loan power to the government, the government never loans power to you."

Hawaii also holds its caucuses on Tuesday, and if Romney does well there, he could keep pace with Gingrich and Santorum in the South.

Still, Tuesday's contests aren't likely to drive anyone out of the race.