Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum will win the Missouri primary, CBS News has projected.
The projection is based on 2,024 of 3,134 precincts reporting. Santorum carried 55 percent of the vote, while Mitt Romney, who has won three contests, took 25 percent. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas took 12 percent, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich failed to get on the ballot in Missouri.
Missouri’s contest has been described as a “beauty contest” because nothing is at stake and the state's delegates will be awarded after the March 17 caucuses.
CBS News noted, however, that the Missouri win presented Santorum with his best opportunity to re-emerge as the conservative alternative to Romney.
Santorum barely won over Romney in the Iowa caucuses in January, but then fell behind Romney and Gingrich in the following nominating contests.
The CBS News report added that polls and early returns indicate Santorum could have a strong night in Colorado and Minnesota as well, where non-binding Republican caucuses were being held.
CNN reported that Santorum held a strong early lead in Minnesota's caucuses, with Paul running second, Romney third and Gingrich trailing with just 3 percent of the total counted.
Santorum also held an early lead over Romney and Gingrich in Colorado, CNN reported, but that was when just one percent of the votes had been counted, meaning a change could take place.
Earlier on Tuesday, Romney tried to lower expectations ahead the caucuses. Romney's campaign circulated a memo emphasizing delegates were not bound by primaries in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri. It also noted that John McCain lost 19 states in his successful run for the nomination in 2008.
Previously, Romney scored a big win in New Hampshire but was defeated in South Carolina by Gingrich.