Rick Santorum triumphant as election takes another unpredictable swing (+video)
Rick Santorum has been declared the winner in Minnesota and Missouri – by wide margins – and could yet upset Mitt Romney in Colorado. But bigger contests lie ahead.
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Notably, Santorum didn't mention Mr. Gingrich's name at all.Skip to next paragraph
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Romney's campaign sought to downplay the victories, noting that the contests matter little and that Romney didn't put any time or money into Missouri and relatively little into Minnesota.
In a speech to his supporters in Denver Tuesday night, Romney brushed off the losses, saying only, “This was a good night for Rick Santorum.”
“I want to congratulate Senator Santorum, we wish him the very best, we’ll keep campaigning down the road, but I expect to become the nominee with your help,” Romney added.
Indeed, Romney continued to speak as the front-runner and presumptive nominee, focusing the bulk of his speech on Obama’s record.
Still, the results in Minnesota and Missouri are not only a big boost for Santorum – who seems poised to bypass Gingrich as Romney's primary rival – but point to significant weaknesses for Romney in certain regions and demographics. While Romney performs well in the Northeast and West, he has so far struggled in the Midwest – where he has yet to get a win – and the South, as well as among conservative voters and those outside major metropolitan areas.
If Romney ends up losing Colorado, it will be an even bigger and more surprising loss.
The wins in Minnesota and Missouri were bigger than anticipated for Santorum. He won Missouri with about 55 percent of the vote – more than twice what Romney received (about 25 percent). He won many precincts that Romney won in 2008.
Fewer votes had been counted in Minnesota, but Santorum also seemed poised to win there by a very large margin, with more than twice as many votes as Romney, who was also well behind Paul.
Minnesota is particularly disappointing for Romney, given that he carried the state in 2008 with 41 percent of the vote – back when he positioned himself as the conservative alternative to John McCain.
If nothing else, Tuesday's contests underscored the unpredictable nature of this year's GOP nominating process, in which momentum rarely seems to carry over from one contest to the next.
"Mitt Romney's big wins in Nevada and Florida did not seem to do him much good tonight," wrote New York Times pollster Nate Silver in commentary Tuesday night, though he added that that lack of carryover from one state to the next may ultimately be to Romney's advantage, since "momentum from Rick Santorum's wins in Missouri and Minnesota could evaporate by the time that Arizona and Michigan vote on Feb. 28."
Another candidate – albeit from the other party – who is likely pleased by Tuesday's results: Barack Obama, whose campaign is hoping that the GOP nominating process drags on as long as possible.
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