Santorum's latest wins could mean California will end-up playing a big role in the Republican presidential contest for the first time in years.
"I don't stand here to claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama," Santorum said.
It was a major blow to Romney's effort to wrap up the republican nomination. Wednesday in Georgia he predicted a prolonged battle.
"There's there's no such thing as a coronation in presidential politics; it's meant to be a long process, it's not easy to get the nomination," Romney said.
In order to get it, Romney or any of his rivals need 1,144 delegates. Right now, not counting party leaders who can change their votes, Romney has 91 delegates.
Santorum has won more contests and is in second with 68.
"The delegate count at this point tells you that California could easily be decisive," ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain said.
Cain says Santorum's appeal in the caucuses, Gingrich's presumed advantage in southern states and Romney's inability to win in states that he took four years ago may very well leave the contest undecided all the way to June when California could be the decider.
"Because it has a large number of delegates and it uses winner take all rules," Cain said.
A week ago the chair of California's GOP said campaigns are already gearing up in California.
There's no evidence of campaign offices opening, but this week Romney named former Gov. Pete Wilson an honorary campaign chairman and Meg Whitman and her husband are two of his national finance co-chairs.
But for now the candidates are turning most of their attention to the next two big states, Arizona and Michigan, and then the March 6 Super Tuesday, when voters in 10 more states will have their say.
Four years ago, the Democratic nomination was still in play when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton battled for votes in California. It's looking increasingly likely that California Republicans will have their turn in June.