Advocacy

Triple Victory for Santorum Again Upends GOP Presidential Race

The Washington Post 2/8/12 – Addressing supporters in Denver on Tuesday night, Romney congratulated Santorum and insisted that he still expects to eventually become the nominee.

“We’re going to take our message of liberty and prosperity to every corner of the country, and when this primary season is over, we’re going to stand united as a party behind our nominee to defeat Barack Obama,” Romney said.

Rick Santorum swept all three GOP contests on Tuesday, declaring himself “the conservative alternative to Barack Obama” and setting up a fight for the Republican Party’s conservative base.

Paul, who has yet to secure a win in the 2012 sweepstakes, mobilized his loyal support networks in the three states and was banking on low turnout in the nonbinding contests to give him a win. But he finished third in Missouri and was trailing in Colorado.

Gingrich did not compete in Missouri and spent limited time in Colorado and Minnesota. He looked past Tuesday’s contests and instead campaigned in Ohio, one of several delegate-rich states voting on Super Tuesday.

Together, the three states voting Tuesday will eventually award 128 delegates. But Missouri was a “beauty contest” with no delegates at stake, while Minnesota and Colorado were nonbinding events with delegates to be chosen this spring.

At stake Tuesday night was the prestige of winning. And Santorum nailed down three upsets to restore an air of viability to his candidacy.

By defeating Romney, Santorum believes, he can reset the race and help create the perception that he, and not Gingrich, is the conservative alternative to the establishment front-runner.

“Conservatism is alive and well,” Santorum told supporters at his election night party in Missouri. “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.”

Recognizing the Santorum threat, Romney and his supporters attacked the former senator the past few days over his support for congressional earmarks. Romney shifted his efforts in recent days to Colorado, where he has a deeper ground organization and won the 2008 caucuses with 60 percent of the vote.

The Minnesota and Missouri contests were early barometers of Romney’s support in some of the key Midwestern states he would need to win in a general election against President Obama. And Colorado is thought of as a critical battleground; Obama’s campaign advisers consider it a must-win.

The candidates spent considerably less money and time in these three states than in the contests that preceded them in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada; now the race enters a February lull. After the Maine caucuses, which will end on Saturday, there are no primaries or caucuses until primaries on Feb. 28 in Arizona and Michigan, two states that will generate intense engagement from all the candidates. Romney, in particular, is planning to compete aggressively in both.

Romney officials labored to preserve an aura of inevitability around his campaign, releasing a strategy memorandum Tuesday promoting the former Massachusetts governor’s financial and organizational advantage over the long haul.

“Mitt Romney is the only candidate with the organizational strength and broad-based appeal to secure delegates in all remaining primaries and caucuses,” national political director Rich Beeson wrote. “Of course, there is no way for any nominee to win first place in every single contest — John McCain lost 19 states in 2008, and we expect our opponents to notch a few wins too.”

 

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