Mississippi went to the polls today in what was the most watched Primary in the state since the 1970’s. Early turnout appeared to be low but numbers pushed 250,000+ by the end of the night, close to 2011 numbers and well ahead of 2008.

Rick Santorum was the odds on favorite a month ago to win Mississippi but polls and tenor seemed to be leaning toward a Gingrich/Romney upset; that was not to be the case. Santorum fought back and claimed the top spot in the Republican Primary for President. The former Pennsylvania Senator won big in North, Northeast, East Central, and Southwest Coastal Mississippi.

Newt Gingrich finished second, essentially ending his chances to move up in the delegate count. The calls for Gingrich to step aside will surely intensify now that this Primary is over, a sign that he cannot win even in his own region of the country. The former US Speaker’s base was in the Pinebelt.

Mitt Romney, seen as surging in the state due to the many statewide and legislative elected official endorsements, came up third. The former Massachusetts Governor led in the Jackson metro area, West, West Central, and Southeast Coastal Mississippi. He won many of the media markets, but it seemed the “Spring Break” effect was real and the turnouts and margins where Romney needed them were very low.

Takaways from the night…

1. There’s a saying about “big hat… no cattle.” In the end analysis, it was that kind of night for Santorum. It was a big win for Santorum politically and it will help him claim some momentum, but it doesn’t signify much in terms of delegates. Coming into the night down 250 delegates, with his win in Mississippi, Santorum gained one (1) delegate on Romney. Unofficial AP estimates of delegates from Mississippi is 12 for Santorum and 11 each for Gingrich & Romney. In Alabama, he only gained 10. It is impressive that he won without spending money at the pace Romney did, but he’s going to have to have a breakout performance in a big state soon to be seen as truly viable.

2. Santorum ran up the score in MS-01 (Rep. Alan Nunnelee country). Nunnelee endorsed Santorum late. I don’t know which was the cause and which was the effect, but it was undeniably good politics for Nunnelee.

3. Mississippi acquitted itself very well. Not many people would believe that a Protestant, a Catholic and a Mormon would fight to a functional draw in a Mississippi Republican Primary. Values and defeating Obama were issues. Religion was not.

4. In the end, endorsements by state and legislative officials really don’t resonate with the average Mississippi conservative voter. Mississippians think for themselves and are proud of it.

In other primary races, every incumbent Congressman won their party’s nomination: Alan Nunnelee (MS-01), Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Gregg Harper (MS-03) and Steven Palazzo (MS-04). Also, Republican Senator Roger Wicker easily prevailed.

The Tea Party candidates vying against Nunnelee, Harper, Palazzo, and Wicker just simply flopped with voters, never able to gain traction or raise the money necessary to be viable. Perhaps instead of separating themselves from voters and the incumbents, these concerned Tea Party members could offer their passion and assistance to the incumbents and build a bridge of dialogue that will serve their interests and the interests of the state and nation well. We will never agree with everything an elected leader does, but if we learn their heart and mind through open dialogue, much more can be accomplished together than apart.

All five men – Nunnelee, Thompson, Harper, Palazzo and Wicker – will face opposition from the other party in November’s general election, but it won’t matter; every incumbent will win.

It’s been fun to have the attention of the nation; Mississippi mattered. We thank you for watching with us. We’ll have more as it develops down the stretch toward the General election.

For now, we move back to Mississippi state politics, much to the chagrin of Mississippi Democrats. Lots more from YallPolitics is on the way.

Stay tuned…