Mitt Romney may have a problem in exurbia.

In the Kansas Republican presidential primary caucuses, held Saturday, Rick Santorum won statewide with a little over 51 percent of the vote. The former Pennsylvania senator’s statewide percentage was exactly the same as his percentage in rural Kansas counties.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney won 21 percent of the vote statewide — 24 percent in urban counties and 19 percent in rural counties.

The big difference between the two frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination was in exurban counties — communities that are part of metropolitan areas but with a large percentage of people living in rural settings.

These are commuter counties, where people work in the city and live where they can have a little more space. They are located just outside Topeka, Kansas City and Wichita.

In these counties, Santorum won 58.3 percent of the vote; Romney, only 15 percent.

Exurban counties nationally are fast-growing and staunchly Republican. Romney has consistently lost to Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in rural and, especially, exurban counties.

This split in the Republican vote could be key in Tuesday’s primaries in Alabama and Mississippi.

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