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June 26, 2017

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Gingrich faces D-Day in deep South

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Newt Gingrich fights to stay in the Republican presidential race on Tuesday with his hopes pinned on winning primaries in the conservative southern states of Alabama and Mississippi.

As front-runner Mitt Romney racks up more delegates on his expected long march to the 2012 nomination, rivals Gingrich and Rick Santorum have been slugging it out in a side duel to become his sole conservative challenger.

Both men cling to the hope the other may be forced out, allowing a head-to-head contest with Romney. But each week that passes the favorite moves closer to the magic 1,144 delegates needed to seal the nomination.

The status of the battle to take on U.S. President Barack Obama in November depends on who you ask: Romney says it's already over, Santorum says it's now a two-horse race, while Gingrich says wait for Mississippi and Alabama.

"Mathematically, this thing is about over, but emotionally it's not," senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said, crediting Santorum for his recent surge and Gingrich for coming "back from the dead two or three times."

"I think everybody believes, if I could just get a one-on-one with Romney, I could win this thing," the senator told ABC's "This Week" program, as polling showed tight three-way votes looming in the south.

"If Romney does well, wins either Mississippi or Alabama and wins Illinois (later in March), then I think it's virtually impossible for this thing to continue much beyond early May," Graham said.

The stakes couldn't be higher on Tuesday for Gingrich, who has only won two of 26 voting contests so far and who gave up on Kansas — which Santorum took handily at the weekend — to focus on sweeping both big southern primaries.

"I think we'll win both. We are campaigning very aggressively on both states," Gingrich told "Fox News Sunday."

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