Alabama voters head to the polls Tuesday - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Alabama voters head to the polls Tuesday

(WTVM) -

Polls show the race in Alabama is a close one.

The latest poll by public policy polling shows Mitt Romney leading the Republican presidential candidates with a projected 31%, but Newt Gingrich is not far behind with 30%, Rick Santorum with 29%, and Ron Paul trailing with 12%.

So what does Tuesday's votes mean for the candidates?

"It's going to be very close it looks like in Alabama.  Probably close in Mississippi too," said David Lanoue, Dean of Columbus State University's College of Letters and Sciences and political science professor.

Lanoue says a win in Alabama or Mississippi for presidential hopeful Mitt Romney could be a game-changer.

"Then, suddenly he can claim he's the national candidate.  He has the momentum.  He can win in the south as well as the west and the east.  Now he has the front-runner label for good," said Lanoue.

Romney as well as presidential hopefuls Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich made stops in Mississippi and Alabama before voters head to the polls on Tuesday.        

"[Republicans need] someone we can tell the America public that no longer do you need to look to Washington D.C and a president you can believe in, you need a leader that believes in you," said Santorum

Santorum and Gingrich battled for votes Monday night in Birmingham.

"When we win, we can't just beat Obama, we have to win and in a principled way on a big enough agenda with enough momentum that we can actually change Washington decisively or we are not going to get this country back on the right track.  I think I am the only candidate who can do that.

Even though Gingrich denies it, Lanoue says if the presidential candidate does not win in either state, he could not justify staying in the race.

"I do not believe the other two candidates can beat Obama and I believe this race is the most one of our life time, and I will not leave the field," said Gingrich.

For Newt Gingrich, its win in Alabama and/or Mississippi, or it is all over," said Lanoue.

Polls in Alabama and Mississippi will open at 7:00 a.m and close at 7:00 p.m. local time.  

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