BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Mitt Romney is working to seal his status as the Republican presidential front-runner with a thus-far-elusive victory in the Deep South.
Closely fought primaries in Alabama and Louisiana offer the former Massachusetts governor a key opportunity in a region that has been slow to embrace him. Tuesday's primaries are also poised to render a possible final verdict on Newt Gingrich's Southern-focused candidacy.
With polls showing an unexpectedly tight race in the conservative bellwether states, Romney made a campaign appearance Monday in Alabama -- a clear indication that he was eyeing a potential win there.
Santorum, who has angled to campaign head-to-head with Romney, is pressing the case again that Gingrich should consider stepping aside. He plans to watch returns from Louisiana, which holds its primary later this month.