Big defeats in Alabama and Mississippi look bad for Mitt Romney, but when it comes to the all-important delegate count, he will likely still win Tuesday's primary night. According to CNN's estimated delegate tracker, Rick Santorum gained nine more delegates than Romney in Alabama, but only one in Mississippi. Meanwhile, Romney won all nine of the delegates from American Samoa and is crushing the field in Hawaii, meaning he will take most, if not all, of that state's 17 delegates. So despite the two high-profile losses on Tuesday night, Romney (who already has more delegates than remaining contenders combined) will almost certainly come out ahead. (Update 7:30 a.m.: NBC's Chuck Todd says it's official. Delegates go 42-38 for Romney.)
There's no doubt that this looks even worse for Romney than his mixed Super Tuesday results and Santorum (and even Newt Gingrich) clearly benefits in many other ways. Santorum looks more and more like a legit candidate and he will likely get a big fundraising boost this week. His popularity among the party faithful is fully established and he has a caucus in friendly Missouri this weekend, which could give him another boost. Santorum also has "narrative momentum," as MSNBC put it, meaning that he'll be getting a flood of positive headlines and no reason to quit now.
But nothing that happened last night changes the fact the Romney is way ahead on delegates and isn't going to be caught. Romney's apparent absence of any appeal in southern states is still seen as his most glaring weakness, but Santorum's has his own flaws that are much hard to overcome. Plus, there aren't many southern states left for him to take. Santorum will probably lose Puerto Rico, and in Illinois, the only state on next week's primary schedule, Santorum isn't even on the ballot in four counties, already putting him in a big hole. As Romney just proved in Hawaii and Samoa (and Barack Obama proved in 2008) to win it all you have to compete everywhere. The other candidates just can't do that.
No, Romney isn't delivering the knockout blow, but his campaign is still better organized, better funded, and better positioned for the long haul. . It's also still winning the race.