Politics

VIDEO: Santorum sweeps with wins in Minnesota, Colorado caucuses, Missouri primary

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Rick Santorum speaks to supporters in St. Charles, Mo., in suburban St. Louis, after winning all three electoral contests Tuesday night. (Photo from AP video.)

It was a very good night for Rick Santorum, the Republican presidential candidate who handily won the caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado and the "beauty contest" primary in Missouri.

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It was a rough night for Mitt Romney, the one-time front runner for the Republican nomination, came in a distant third in Minnesota and second in Colorado and Missouri. It was also a tough night for Newt Gingrich, who wasn't even on the ballot in Missouri, came in last in Minnesota and third in Colorado.

With Gingrich's dismal finish, it helps Santorum make the case that he, actually, is the credible conservative alternative to Romney — not Gingrich.

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"“I don’t stand here to claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney,” Santorum said in his victory speech Tuesday night, from Missouri, where he'd concluded a marathon day of campaigning. “I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.”

Perhaps now more than ever, the odds of four candidates surviving till the Republican convention are growing. Rep. Ron Paul finished in a strong second place in Minnesota and insisted he wasn't giving up and Gingrich has assured supporters repeatedly that he will compete in every state between now and the convention.

Santorum wasted no time in going after Romney, who Monday had seemed all but assured at least one victory on Tuesday, and perhaps two or three, enough to just about wrap up the nomination.

“Maybe in Massachusetts, they were heard particularly loud tonight," Santorum said, according to the New York Times. Santorum also brought his criticisms of Romney's record squarely forward Tuesday night, saying he is an imperfect conservative messenger and, in terms of health care and environmental policy, “Mitt Romney has the same positions as Barack Obama.”

Now, it looks like it will be a real dog fight at least until Super Tuesday on March 6, and perhaps beyond.

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Also potentially troubling to Romney, as pointed out by Nate Silver of The New York Times, is where Romney won votes. Romney won most of his support in areas typically won by Democrats — wealthy, urban areas. In Colorado, for example, Romney won in and around Denver, while Santorum picked up the more rural areas that Republicans typically need for victory. Plus, the three primaries or caucuses Romney has won thus far are all states the President Obama won in 2008.

But Romney does still maintain the top delegate count, perhaps reflecting the winner-take-all states he's won, and the proportionate or uncommitted delegate states his opponents have taken.

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