Rick Santorum scored victories in Minnesota and Missouri nominating contests Tuesday night, winning him no actual delegates, but allowing the former Pennsylvania senator to stymie Mitt Romney’s bid to keep alive a streak of victories in the Republican presidential primary.
Here is a compilation of the analysis and reaction:
Santorum secures the hat trick:
[Colorado] was the real shocker. Even as recent polls had showed Santorum gaining in Minnesota, Romney had retained a big lead in the mountain state. When the actual voting began, though, Santorum defeated him heavily in rural counties rich with evangelical voters. The pivotal result came from the Colorado Springs area, where the conservative group Focus on the Family is based. After running neck-and-neck with Romney all night, Santorum ended up defeating him by more than five points. (Santorum 40.2 per cent; Romney 34.9 per cent; Gingrich 12.8 per cent; Paul 11.8 percent.)
Mitt Romney took [Colorado] with 60 percent of the vote in 2008 — two days before ending his presidential bid. He chose to hold his results-watching rally in Denver, a sign of confidence, but he wound up delivering his remarks to the crowd long before most of the results rolled in. While none of the state’s 36 delegates are actually assigned as a result of tonight’s caucuses, some level of voter preference generally carries over to the district and state conventions, where delegates are selected.
Regardless of the delegate count, last night gave Rick real traction:
[T]o Romney’s chagrin, Santorum’s largely symbolic victories Tuesday will bring him grassroots enthusiasm and money. And Santorum already has at least one wealthy benefactor willing to give big money to a super PAC supporting him. As Santorum spoke, billionaire investor and businessman Foster Friess stood behind him, reminding those who noticed of the $331,000 he gave the Red, White and Blue Fund even before Santorum narrowly beat Romney in Iowa on Jan. 3. Santorum’s big wins also injects real importance and potential for great political theater at a large gathering of conservative activists [CPAC] in Washington on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“Because right now, angry and almost broke, Newt is no longer the leading candidate to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. That man is Rick Santorum. And what makes Gingrich especially grumpy is that the man he is losing to was once just a pimply backbencher in the 1994 Republican Revolution… So for now Newt is left broke and unloved, facing the long road ahead with a raised fist. There probably will be better days ahead — Super Tuesday offers southern states, and Newt has already proven his ability to rise from the political dead. But Rick Santorum just had his best night of the campaign. For all his faults, he has none of the personal baggage of Newt that might offend the faithful.”
Jonathan Bernstein didn’t see this coming:
I didn’t see this coming. In the last couple of days, sure — the polling didn’t capture it all, but it strongly hinted. But, well, I’ve been consistently wrong about Santorum. I didn’t see his Iowa surge coming in advance (although I did pick up on it very early, for whatever that’s worth). And then I overestimated his chances in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, and in Florida. After which I figured he’d drop out, or get clobbered in a couple more states and then drop out…oops!
On Wednesday morning, there will be a bigger sliver of doubt about that coronation than there was on Tuesday morning. And Santorum, rather than Gingrich, will at least momentarily take the role of the guy who can fill the void.
It was such a bad night for Mitt Romney that getting glitter bombed again was the best part. Rick Santorum humiliated the supposed frontrunner in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. Every time Romney starts winning, voters rebel in the next states.
Rod Dreher questions Romney’s electability:
Until last night, I would have pegged Romney as by far the most electable in the GOP field. Now I’m not at all sure. Obviously he has more appeal to the independent swing voters than Santorum does. But who gets excited about the prospect of voting for Romney? If Romney is the next president, he’s going to get no respect from Congressional Republicans, who will know how weak he is, even with his own base.
From Missouri to Minnesota to Colorado the Republican electorate sent a very clear signal — they want conviction over electability. They do not like Mitt Romney. They see Santorum as authentic. They see Mitt Romney as a fraud. Rick Santorum swept the races. Romney, the front runner, got crushed by conservatives.
It’s unlikely that Romney’s frontrunner status will be immediately threatened by losing any of these contests; Santorum had the most to gain from proving he can upset the former Massachusetts governor. Alternatively, had Santorum been unable to beat Romney despite his intense focus on these contests, it would have raised questions about his viability going forward.
With at least two wins tonight, the best news for Santorum is that he’s got three weeks to raise money for Arizona and Michigan. The next best news is that it was a horrible night for Newt Gingrich.John Hinderaker uses low turnout to diminish Santorum’s victories:
So tomorrow’s news reports will say it was a big win for Rick Santorum. The numbers, however, are so low as to be laughable: if the vote-per-precinct ratio holds up, a total of 65,000 people will have participated in the GOP caucuses [in Minnesota]. This compares with 1,275,409 Minnesotans who voted for John McCain in 2008, so something like 5% of Minnesota’s Republican voters participated tonight. That is hardly enough to give Santorum a ringing mandate, but, on the other hand, that’s how democracy works. You have to show up.
Peter Lawler summarizes Santorum’s argument against money deciding the election:
Maybe Santorum’s best point was that it’s stupid to nominate Romney because he’s the richest and best organized candidate. No Republican will be either against Obama. The Republican will have to count on other attributes.
Kathryn Lopez of National Review:
I was just chatting with our friend Larry Kudlow, who shared his read of Santorum’s victories… It’s a referendum on Obamacare and the Department of Health and Human Services mandate. What’s Santorum known for? His ‘steadfast pro-life defense.’ Larry surmises: ‘A vote for Rick Santorum tonight was the easiest and most immediate voter path to protest Obamacare and Obama’s pro-abortion view.
Josh Marshall finds no silver lining for Romney:
Absent crushing spending and a week or so to focus on a single state, Romney seems to have a really rough time. That’s bad, especially in the Midwest where a Republican candidate has to run strong. And especially when he’s faltering in national polls versus President Obama.
Alex Massie reminds everyone that Santorum would be an awful nominee:
This, remember, is a man who, as an incumbent, lost Pennsylvania by 18 points last time he ran for office. Nor is it easy to think of a major contender for either party’s nomination in recent years more hostile to individual liberty than Santorum. He makes Hillary Clinton, circa 1988, seem a libertarian wet dream. His conservatism is not the kind of conservatism that has generally fared well at the national level.
And the message to Mitt seems to be: a whole lot of people aren’t feeling you, man. I mean, a majority of caucusers and primary voters — paltry though their numbers were tonight — in three states out west picked the guy whose claims have been becoming more and more dark and bizarre every day, and who tonight accused the president of trying to “rule over you” — and by “you” I think he means those who are lucky enough to be in the know about the coming Apocalypse if Rick Santorum doesn’t become president… (this from the guy who wants the government to snatch away women’s birth control…)
Larry Sabato thinks Romney could learn a thing or two from Bill Clinton circa 1992:
In the interim and throughout a tough primary season, Romney is going to have to find new ways to strengthen his candidacy beyond simply unloading negative ads. A good campaign to study would be Bill Clinton’s in 1992. Clinton was also very weak at this juncture but he worked hard to fortify his position over the course of a long primary season. The parallels aren’t precise but there are some lessons nonetheless. If Romney can’t learn them, he’s going to have a long, difficult spring full of intermittent defeats and rampant speculation that the convention will have to turn away from all four of the current candidates to produce a fall winner.