Rick Santorum Captures Big Republican Election Victories

Politics   Steven Ertelt   Feb 8, 2012   |   2:02AM    Washington, DC

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum won big victories in Tuesday night in GOP presidential contests in Minnesota and Missouri and leads the race for the victory in Colorado.

Santorum, with 99 percent of precincts reporting in Missouri, captured 55.2 percent of the vote to 25.3 percent for Mitt Romney, 12.2 percent for Ron Paul and 7.3 percent for other candidates — presumably Newt Gingrich since he was not on the ballot there. In Minnesota, Santorum won as well with the support of 44.7 percent of Republicans to 27.3 percent for Paul, 17 percent for Romney, and 10.5 percent for Gingrich. The Minnesota tally was the first time Romney has finished in third place in any of the states.

With 98% of Colorado precincts reporting, Santorum won the Rocky Mountain state with the backing of 40 percent of Republicans to 35 percent for Romney. Gingrich and Paul have 13 and 12% respectively.

“Conservatism is alive and well in Missouri and Minnesota,” Santorum said in his speech as the first of the GOP candidates to talk on television following the votes. The clearly pumped up candidate added about Romney, who was seen as the leading GOP candidate following his victories in Florida and Nevada. “We doubled him up here, and in Minnesota.”

Santorum: “I don’t claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney; I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.”

Santorum said the key to his victories was the fact that Romney did not spend millions of dollars in negative television commercials in them as he did in Florida to defeat Gingrich. Sensing a Santorum surge in the polls in the states voting tonight, the Romney campaign countered by sending out Santorum’s endorsement of Romney in the 2008 primary election for president.

Romney began the day with 101 delegates, out of 1,144 needed to secure the nomination, followed by Gingrich with 32, Santorum with 17 and Paul with nine, according to the Associated Press’s tally of delegates.

The results lead some conservative pundits to wonder if the race will now become a Romney versus Santorum one with Gingrich and Paul fading.

“A Santorum victory would slow Romney’s momentum—and would certainly give Santorum a boost—going forward,” Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard said before the vote, adding that there is a “possibility of a serious and constructive Romney vs. Santorum race.”

“In Minnesota and Colorado, the caucus system will result in a proportional allocation of delegates among the various candidates. But with polling showing Santorum even with Romney in Minnesota and second to Romney in Colorado, a strong showing for Santorum would do the most to slow the Romney juggernaut. It would also of course help Santorum’s chances to replace Gingrich down the road as the alternative to Romney—an outcome that, I suspect, might well result in a better race for the nomination and a healthier situation for the ultimate Republican nominee.”

Writing at National Review, John Fund said: “Mitt Romney’s campaign will have lots of explanations for their man’s poor showing tonight. Yes, Colorado and Minnesota were caucus states — the turnout is skewed in such contests toward a more conservative electorate. Yes, Missouri’s primary was a “beauty contest” and didn’t award any delegates. But what Romney won’t be able to explain away is just how much more poorly he did tonight in those three states than in his 2008 showing — when he lost the GOP nomination for president.”

“In 2008, Romney crushed John McCain in the Minnesota caucuses by nearly two to one. Tonight, he was sent into a humiliating third-place finish, trailing both Rick Santroum and Ron Paul. In Missouri, McCain held John McCain and Mike Huckabee to something close to a three-way tie, winning 29 percent of the vote. This year, with fewer opponents, he won only 25 percent. In Colorado, Romney outperformed John McCain by three to one in 2008. This year, albeit with only early returns in, he is trailing Santorum. Results from Denver caucus sites will likely boost Romney’s overall showing, but it’s tough to see him winning the state with Santorum performing as well as he is in Colorado Springs and the rural areas,” Fund noted. “Santorum is now well primed to raise more money, recruit more volunteers, and better compete in Arizona’s primary at the end of February.”

“If Romney indeed loses all three states tonight, it will be in large part because he has failed to close the deal with conservatives, who dominate the Republican party more than they did in 2008,” he said.