Sen. Rick Santorum was the choice of voters in the Tennessee Republican primary on Tuesday. The former Pennsylvania senator led Gov. Mitt Romney by roughly 10 percentage points and 39,000 votes with 75 percent of the state reporting at 9:30 p.m.
Santorum was leading or won in 86 of Tennessee's 95 counties at 9:30 p.m. He had 37.3 percent of the vote, followed by Romney with 27.8 percent and Gingrich at 23.9 percent with 81 percent of the state's precincts reporting.
Romney won Davidson, Williamson and Loudon Counties by less than 5 percent, while Gingrich won Marion County in southeastern Tennessee. Five counties still hadn't reported results as of 9:30 p.m. Romney beat Santorum 11,547 to 10,798 in Davidson County.
Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney congratulated Santorum less than an hour after 7 p.m. poll close.
“I want to congratulate Rick Santorum on his primary win and thank all of the voters who cast a ballot for one of our four Republican candidates. We have seen a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and excitement statewide for this primary. Tennesseans spoke loud and clear tonight that they are ready to make President Obama a one-term president," he said.
The atmosphere was celebratory at Santorum's “victory rally” in Steubenville, Ohio, where the candidate said he had won “at least a couple gold medals” based on wins in Tennessee and Oklahoma.
“We have won in the West, the Midwest and the South and we're ready to win across this country,” Santorum said. “There wasn't a single state in the list I just gave you that I spent more money than the people we had to defeat in that state.”
Based on Super PAC spending in Tennessee, Santorum was heavily outspent by Gingrich and Romney. Federal Election Commission disclosures show the Romney-backing Super PAC “Restore Our Future” spent roughly $947,000, while the pro-Gingrich “Winning Our Future” spent about $731,500 on media production, advertising and mailings in the Volunteer State. The pro-Santorum Red White and Blue Fund only spent about $160,000.
All three of the candidates visited Tennessee on the campaign trail. Gingrich spent a full day in Nashville  on Feb. 27 while also making multiple stops in Chattanooga. Santorum held a rally  at Belmont University two days later, and campaigned in east Tennessee.
Romney's first Tennessee stop was last Sunday in Knoxville.
The latest Middle Tennessee State University poll  released on Feb. 29 showed Santorum (40 percent) was heavily favored over Romney (19 percent).