Triple victories revive Santorum's hopes

Santorum takes Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado Republican contests; front-runner Romney falls to third in Minnesota.

Republican candidate Rick Santorum in Missouri 390 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Sarah Conard)
Republican candidate Rick Santorum in Missouri 390 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Sarah Conard)
WASHINGTON – GOP candidate Mitt Romney suffered a trio of losses on Tuesday night, as insurgent Rick Santorum delivered knockout punches in the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses and the Missouri primary.
In Minnesota, Romney registered his first third-place finish of the 2012 Republican nominating process, while in Colorado and Missouri Romney failed to hold on to states he won in 2008 when he made his first presidential bid. Santorum bested Romney 40 to 35 in Colorado; 55 to 25 in Missouri; and 45 to 17 in Minnesota, where Ron Paul picked up 27 percent of the vote.
Santorum, who still significantly trails his chief rival in national polls, received a fundraising boost Wednesday following his triple victory. An increase in money and organization are crucial for Santorum to effectively challenge Romney, who still enjoys considerable dominance in those areas, despite Tuesday’s losses.
In addition to challenging Romney, Santorum must also fend off Newt Gingrich’s campaign to claim the conservative mantle, which both men use to take votes from GOP enthusiasts dissatisfied with Romney’s more moderate positions.
Gingrich finished third in Colorado with 13%, and fourth in Minnesota with 11%. He did not compete in Missouri, which was a non-binding vote, and has focused most of his energy on major “Super Tuesday” states which will dole out a large share of delegates to the nominating convention on March 6.
Santorum, in his victory speech Tuesday night, emphasized that he wasn’t just competing within his party but for stewardship of the nation.
“I don’t stand here and claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama,” he told supporters.
Despite the losses, Romney continued to express confidence that he would become the Republican nominee.
“I want to congratulate Senator Santorum and wish him the very best. We’ll keep on campaigning down the road, but I expect to become our nominee with your help,” Romney told supporters in Denver.
Before his speech, Romney’s campaign circulated a memo on why he would still win the nomination, despite losses on Tuesday.
“Governor Romney will be competing across the country and collecting delegates in state after state, even if other candidates pick up some wins,” Romney’s Political Director Rich Beeson said.
But many political observers, including several on the right, have highlighted the clear vulnerabilities in Romney’s candidacy given his struggle to wrap up the nomination despite winning New Hampshire, Florida and Nevada, leading in national polls and enjoying monetary and organizational supremacy.
“He has failed to close the deal with conservatives, who dominate the Republican party more than they did in 2008,” wrote John Fund in the conservative National Review Online.
But he added, “He is doing quite well in the race to become the Republican nominee for president, and must still be considered the strong favorite.”

Reuters contributed to this report.