Posted at 12:25 AM ET, 02/08/2012

Rick Santorum wins Minnesota, Missouri

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum picked up early wins in Minnesota and Missouri this evening, offering further evidence that the primary season is nowhere near an end. While no delegates were awarded in any of tonight’s races, Santorum’s victories pose a significant setback for front-runner Mitt Romney.

A recap of tonight’s events follows.

KEY LINKS:

Full Republican primary results by state
Minnesota deals Mitt Romney embarrassing blow
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11:55 p.m | COLORADO | Romney emphasizes dad’s blue-collar roots


Mitt Romney addresses supporters in Denver. (RICK WILKING - REUTERS)

Mitt Romney takes the stage in Denver, and right out of the gate, he notes that the crowd appears smaller than the nearly 3,000 people who attended his caucus-eve speech last night.

“That’s a little smaller than the 2,800 people last night that were at Arapahoe High School, but you guys are just as loud,” Romney says. “Congratulations. Thank you.”

He congratulates Rick Santorum on his wins in Missouri and Minnesota and notes that the race in Colorado — where only 30 percent of precincts have reported so far — has yet to be called.

“Well, it’s great to be in Denver tonight,” Romney says. “A lot of snow on the ground. Pretty cold, but warm to be in this room and with so many friends here, and I want to say thank you. The race is too close to call in Colorado at this point, but I’m pretty confident we’ll come in No. 1 or No. 2. ... We’ll keep on campaigning down the road, but I expect to become our nominee with your help.”

The bulk of Romney’s Colorado speech is focused, as his previous primary-night remarks have been, on criticism of President Obama’s handling of the economy.

“Under his own definition, President Obama has failed,” Romney says. “We will succeed.”

Unlike Santorum, Romney doesn’t spend a lot of time focused on social issues. But in an apparent bid to blunt Santorum’s momentum among blue-collar voters, Romney notes his father’s past work as a carpenter.

“My father never graduated from college; he apprenticed as a lath and plaster carpenter. And he was pretty good at it; he actually could take a handful of nails, stick them in his mouth, and then spit them out, pointing end forward. On his honeymoon, he put aluminum paint in the trunk of the car and sold it along the way to pay for the gas and the hotels,” he says to laughs.

“There were a lot of reasons why my father could’ve given up and set his sights a lot lower. But my dad believed in America. And in the America he believed in, a lath and plaster guy could work out to become head of a car company.”

Watch Romney speak:

— Felicia Sonmez

11:18 p.m.: | MINNESOTA | Governors don’t help Romney’s cause

Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel writes:

In fact, two of the losses Mitt Romney has now sustained have come in places where he had the backing of the state’s governor or recent governor.
Romney received the coveted endorsement of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) in December. He lost the state’s primary to Newt Gingrich.
In Minnesota, Romney had the backing of Pawlenty, who served as governor from 2003 to 2011... Of course, it’s unlikely that Romney lost because of his endorsements. But it also shows that they are not a sure-fire way to appeal to voters -- a fact perhaps not lost on the governors themselves.

Read the full piece here.

11:05 p.m. | COLORADO | Too early to call

Campaign-watchers eager to make a call in Colorado, hold your horses.

Only seven percent of precincts in the Centennial State have tallied their ballots, and the count is still in the hundreds (not thousands, or tens of thousands) of votes.

Most of the major population centers – including the Denver and Fort Collins areas – have yet to report their votes. Those suburbs are more moderate Republican, and it’s where Mitt Romney has focused his campaigning over the last two days.

One key Romney county to keep your eye on is Arapahoe County. The suburban Denver county is where Romney held a 2,800-person rally Monday night at Arapahoe High School.

— Felicia Sonmez and Philip Rucker

10:53 p.m. | MISSOURI | Santorum ribs Romney in victory speech

“We doubled him up here and in Minnesota,” Santorum said with what seemed like genuine surprise.


Rick Santorum offers a thumbs up before his Missouri victory speech. (Jeff Roberson - AP)

He said the voices of Missourians were heard “particularly loudly” in "a place I expect may be in Massachusetts.”

He argued that tonight’s contests, free of the waves of ad spending that characterized earlier primaries, were a purer test of each candidate’s worth.

“Governor Romney’s greatest asset is, ‘Well I’ve got the most money and the best organization.’” Santorum said. “Well, he’s not going to have the most money and the best organization in the fall, is he?”

But Santorum had stronger words for President Obama.

“Why would you think he would be listening now?” Santorum asked of the president. “Has he ever listened to the voice of America before? No, because he thinks he knows better. He thinks he’s smarter than you. he thinks he’s a privileged person who should rule over all of you.”

He hit President Obama directly on mandating contraception coverage, saying the president wanted to “impose his secular values on the people of this country” and that “freedom is at stake in this election.”

His main argument: “I don't stand here to be the conservative alternative to Romney. I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Obama.”

Santorum did not mention former House speaker Newt Gingrich at all.

— Rachel Weiner

10:40 p.m. | MINNESOTA | Santorum notches a second win

Rick Santorum has won the Minnesota caucuses, the Associated Press and multiple networks project.

With 33 percent of precincts reporting, Santorum is taking 46 percent to Ron Paul’s 26 percent in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. Mitt Romney – for the first time in a contest this primary season – is coming in third with 16 percent.

— Felicia Sonmez

10:36 p.m. | MISSOURI | Voters ‘uncomitted’ in Democratic primary

A few thousand Missouri voters have traveled to the polls today to vote in a meaningless Democratic primary which President Obama was always going to win in order to make a point.

Instead of casting ballots for Obama or anybody else, they have voted “uncommitted.”

With about four-fifths of the vote in, this group of protest voters represents almost 7 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. Obama is winning that primary with 88 percent of the vote.

A sign of unrest with the base? Maybe a little.

But, really, what better way to say “I’m not happy with my options” than to vote “none of the above.”

(And by the way, about 4 percent of Republican primary voters are voting uncommitted.)

Aaron Blake

10:30 p.m. | How Santorum won Missouri (and why it matters)

Rick Santorum’s win in Missouri might not get him any delegates, but it might give front-runner Mitt Romney more of a headache than he bargained for, as Aaron Blake writes:

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.

Read more on how Santorum won Missouri on The Fix.

10:15 p.m. | MISSOURI | Low turnout for ‘beauty contest’ race

It comes as little surprise given that it’s a “beauty contest” primary, but turnout tonight in Missouri appears low so far.

With 60 percent of precincts reporting, 156,266 votes have been counted. While the final tally won’t be in for some time, it’s still on track to be down from the approximately 580,000 total votes that were cast in the 2008 Republican primary in Missouri.

What’s significant, though, isn’t the overall turnout number – comparing the 2008 binding primary to the 2012 nonbinding one is an apples-to-oranges comparison – but rather what it means about Santorum’s Show Me State win.


Supporters wait for a Rick Santorum rally to begin in St. Charles, Mo. (Whitney Curtis - GETTY IMAGES)
That so few voters showed up is a reminder to take Santorum’s win here with a grain of salt, as it’s far from a sign of Santorum-mentum sweeping the nation.

That said, the silver lining for Santorum is the fact that his win suggests his supporters are more energized than those of the other GOP White House hopefuls, at least when it comes to the Show Me State.

— Felicia Sonmez

10:06 p.m. | MISSOURI | Super PAC congratulates Santorum

The Red White and Blue Fund, a super PAC supporting Rick Santorum, has issued a press release congratulating the former senator on his “massive” victory in Missouri:

Tonight’s victory should put to bed the idea that the Republican nomination for Mitt Romney is inevitable,” said Stuart Roy, an adviser to the super PAC. “When Republicans are given the choice between a principled conservative and a calculated convert to conservatism, principles win big.

— Rachel Weiner

9:45 p.m. | NBC, CNN, AP call Missouri for Santorum

NBC News, the Associated Press and CNN are projecting that Rick Santorum will win tonight’s Missouri primary.

Santorum is expected to address supporters shortly from St. Charles, Missouri.

With 37 percent of precincts reporting, Santorum is taking 54 percent in Missouri to Mitt Romney’s 26 percent. Ron Paul is taking 12 percent.

— Felicia Sonmez

9:25 p.m. | Ron Paul courts Minnesota voters

Of today’s primary states, Rep. Ron Paul spent the most time campaigning in Minnesota, where he placed fourth in 2008. So far this time around, Paul is placing second behind Rick Santorum with 14 percent of precincts reporting. Track full Minnesota caucus results or take a look at Paul’s efforts in the North Star state:


Coon Rapids Middle School in Coon Rapids, Minn. (ERIC MILLER - REUTERS)

Ron Paul autographs cash for a supporter in Coon Rapids, Minn. (ERIC MILLER - REUTERS)

Ron Paul strikes a pose in Coon Rapids, Minn. (ERIC MILLER - REUTERS)
View more photos from Missouri, Colorado and Minnesota .

9:10 p.m. | COLORADO | Caucus time in the Centennial state

Minnesota and Missouri votes are already rolling in, and Colorado’s caucuses just kicked off. Some scenes from precincts around the state:

9:00 p.m. | MINNESOTA | Early results favor Santorum

Early Minnesota caucus results show former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum leading former Massaachusetts governor Mitt Romney, with Texas Rep. Ron Paul coming in third.

With most precincts still out, these numbers could obviously change significantly. But if the current trend continues it will be a good night for Santorum.

— Rachel Weiner

8:30 p.m. | Turnout, turnout, turnout

One of the big storylines of the night – particularly on the heels of Saturday’s low-turnout Nevada caucuses -- will be not only who wins in tonight’s three contests, but how many people show up to vote.


St. Louis County election official Chuck Wentworth prepares for votes to be cast in St. Louis, Mo. (SARAH CONARD - REUTERS)
Here’s a look at where the turnout in tonight’s trio of states stood four years ago:

Colorado: 70,000

Minnesota: 62,000

Missouri: 580,000

Of course, it’s worth keeping in mind that turnout in Missouri tonight is likely to be particularly low since the contest, unlike the caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, plays no role in determining the eventual awarding of delegates in the state.

Still, given that only 33,000 votes were cast in Saturday’s Nevada caucuses – down from 44,000 in 2008 – low turnout in tonight’s states will reinforce the idea that voters simply aren’t as tuned into the presidential race as they were four years ago.

And as the conventional wisdom goes, the lower the turnout, the more likely that one of Mitt Romney’s rivals for the Republican nod will get a boost, as supporters of the front-runner may be less motivated to go to the polls than backers of candidates viewed as insurgents in the race.

Low turnout could also point to trouble for Romney in the general election, as it would suggest an enthusiasm gap that the former Massachusetts governor might have trouble working to overcome in November.

Felicia Sonmez

8:29 p.m. | First votes in Minnesota

We’ve got some ballots cast in Minnesota too!

With just a few votes in, Rick Santorum leads Ron Paul seven votes to six votes. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are both at one vote.

Follow our Republican primary tracker for full results from Missouri, Colorado and Minnesota.

Aaron Blake

8:25 p.m. | Decipher this: #CoMoSotaPricus

#COCaucus. #MOPrimary. #MNCaucus.

Multi-state election nights can really stretch your tweets.

Good question. We retweeted to our @PostPolitics followers to see if they had a suggestion that wouldn’t eat up too many of our 140 characters. The staff favorite so far:

Other suggestions: #snoozerTuesday (h/t @Lisa_p_White) and #27caucus (h/t @commsdirector). Mention @PostPolitics in a tweet if you have other suggestions.

We hope to get this squared away before Super Tuesday.

Natalie Jennings

8:21 p.m. | First votes in Missouri

We’ve got some ballots cast!

With about two dozen votes in in Missouri, Rick Santorum leads Mitt Romney nine votes to eight votes.

The “uncommitted” option is third with three votes.

Follow our Republican primary tracker for full results from Missouri, Colorado and Minnesota.

Aaron Blake

8:19 p.m. | Gingrich: I won almost every debate


Newt Gingrich, the great debater, in Tampa last month. (Joe Raedle - GETTY IMAGES)
Newt Gingrich said in an interview with CNN from Ohio that he has won all but two debates held so far in the presidential race.

“Most people believe I won 15 out of 17 debates and tied one,” he said. “I think you could argue that I lost one.”

In actuality, most analysts believe Gingrich lost both debates in the run-up to the Florida primary. As for the other 15, does Gingrich really believe he finished first in all 15?

Talking about Tuesday’s contests, Gingrich said that the takeaway from tonight is that Mitt Romney is weakened.

Gingrich, confronted with the fact that he hasn’t bought essentially any ad time in any of the three states tonight, said he’s readying a more active campaign in the run-up to Super Tuesday on March 6.

“I think we’re going to do very well on Super Tuesday, I think we’re going to compete very hard in Arizona and Michigan,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich is expected to do poorly tonight, which is a big reason he’s in Ohio rather than one of three states holding contests.

His campaign didn’t even qualify for the primary ballot in Missouri. It argued that it was a pointless exercise.

Aaron Blake

8:13 p.m. | Santorum, waiting for a sign?


(Jeff Roberson)

Rick Santorum yard signs lean against a wall before a primary night watch party in St. Charles, Mo. View more photos from Missouri, Colorado and Minnesota.

7:40 p.m. | Bachmann misses CNN debates most

What will Michele Bachmann miss most about the Republican presidential race?

According to CNN’s Michelle Jaconi, it’s the debates:

Bachmann has kept something of a lower profile since she dropped out of the race following her sixth-place showing in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. But she has re-emerged in the run-up to today’s Minnesota caucuses, making a few headlines in the process.

Felicia Sonmez

7:25 p.m. | Romney four years ago today: ‘I hate to lose’

Mitt Romney announced he was suspending his campaign for the 2008 Republican nomination on Feb. 7, 2008, at CPAC, the annual convention for conservative activists.


Mitt Romney ending his presidential bid, Feb. 7, 2008. (Gerald Martineau - THE WASHINGTON POST)
Here’s an excerpt from that speech (full transcript here):

I want you to know, I’ve given this a lot of thought -- I’d forestall the launch of a national campaign and, frankly, I’d make it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win.
Frankly, in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.
This isn’t an easy decision. I hate to lose.
My family, my friends, you, my supporters across the country, you’ve given a great deal to get me to where I have a shot to becoming president. If this were only about me, I’d go on. But it’s never been only about me.
I entered this race -- I entered this race because I love America. And because I love America, in this time of war, I feel I have to now stand aside for our party and for our country.

CPAC 2012 is this Friday and Saturday at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington. Romney, who won the CPAC straw poll in 2007, is scheduled to speak Friday.

Natalie Jennings

7:20 p.m. | Just how non-binding are today’s votes, really?

Jonathan Bernstein does a good job laying out how the delegate process actually works in tonight’s two caucus states — Minnesota and Colorado — where much of the coverage has sought to de-emphasize the caucuses since they don’t directly lead to the selection of delegates.

In short: delegates aren’t awarded based on the results tonight, but tonight’s caucuses do lay the groundwork for whose delegates get chosen.

Bernstein writes:

Two things will happen. One is a straw vote for presidential preference. That’s what’s going to get reported tonight. The other is an election of delegates to the next-stage county caucuses. The county caucuses will select delegates to congressional district meetings; those meetings will choose some delegates to the national contention, and also choose delegates for the state convention, which in turn will choose the remainder of the selected delegates for the national convention.

Simple enough, right? Well, here’s how it can play out:

If the campaigns were perfectly organized, then every caucuser in each of these states would vote for a next-stage delegate who was loyal to the same candidate he or she voted for in the straw poll. That would produce county conventions that perfectly translated those precinct results up the line, and so on, with the result that the eventual delegation would simply reflect the original straw vote

In other words, the eventual delegate totals can and likely will reflect the results tonight, to some degree. That’s why the AP guesstimates how many delegates each candidate has won in states like Iowa, Colorado and Minnesota.

There are certain things that can create a difference between the straw poll results and the delegate totals — delegates changing their mind, supporters of one candidate participating in the second stage more than anothers’ supporters, the state party steering the process toward one candidate or another — but tonight’s results do set the stage for the delegate battle.

However, in the end, we don’t even know whether all the state’s delegates will go to one candidate or whether it will be proportional.

Frontloading HQ’s Josh Putnam sums it up well in his recap of the process in Colorado:

...it is naive to think that there is no transference of presidential preference from one caucus step to the next. But for Colorado, as was the case in Iowa, there is no requirement that it be proportional or winner-take-all.

Aaaron Blake

7:00 p.m. | Romney backer: Santorum should be on VP list

The “Santorum surge” has yet to be confirmed by voters. But Romney supporter Haley Barbour is already putting Santorum on the VP short­list.

"I don't see how he would not be considered," the former governor of Mississippi told the Hill. "He's run an impressive campaign and done it in a distinguished way. He's outperformed expectations, has done it very efficiently. Of course he's going to be on the list, how can he not be?"

Barbour considered running for president himself; he backed Rick Perry until the Texas governor dropped out of the race.

— Rachel Weiner

6:50 p.m. | Candidates weigh in on Prop 8 ruling

On Capitol Hill, members of Congress have been mostly silent about today’s Proposition 8 ruling.

Not so on the campaign trail.

Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich both weighed in via Twitter on the federal appeals panel’s ruling that California’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

“7M Californians had their rights stripped away today by activist 9th Circuit judges. As president I will work to protect marriage,” tweeted Santorum.

Wrote Gingrich: “Court of Appeals overturning CA’s Prop 8 another example of an out of control judiciary. Let’s end judicial supremacy.”

Gingrich also included a link to a section of his campaign Web site describing in greater detail his position on the role of the judicial branch.

Santorum later issued a statement calling the decision “another in a long line of radical activist rulings by this rogue circuit -- and it is precisely why I have called for that circuit to be abolished and split up.”

“Marriage is defined and has always been defined as ‘one man and one woman,’” he said. “We simply cannot allow 50 different definitions of marriage.”

Mitt Romney issued a statement Tuesday afternoon arguing that “today, unelected judges cast aside the will of the people of California who voted to protect traditional marriage.”

“This decision does not end this fight, and I expect it to go to the Supreme Court,” he said. “That prospect underscores the vital importance of this election and the movement to preserve our values.”

Romney did not mention the ruling via Twitter, although he did send out a tweet Tuesday night congratulating Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) mother, Roberta, on celebrating her 100th birthday today.

Ron Paul did not issue any statements on the ruling.

Felicia Sonmez

6:10 p.m. | A rash of glitter bombs


A protester throws glitter on Rick Santorum before the start of a rally in Blaine, Minn. (ERIC MILLER - REUTERS)
Another day, another sparkly attack. The four remaining Republican candidates have now all been subjected to the blingy-est form of protest.

Rick Santorum, who has been struck (sprinkled?) a few times, was glittered again this afternoon in Blaine, Minn., the Hill reports. Ron Paul got a dose of it Monday night in Minn., according to Huffington Post. Gay rights activists claimed credit for both incidents.

Natalie Jennings

5:59 p.m. | Candidate speeches due around 9:30 or 10 tonight

The campaigns are offering some ballpark estimates about when their candidates will speak tonight. Take these as tentative:

Ron Paul is expected to speak from Minnesota around 9:30 ET.

Mitt Romney is expected to speak from Colorado around 9:45 ET.

And Rick Santorum is expected to speak from Missouri around 10:00 p.m. ET.

Of course, if the result is in doubt in Missouri, Santorum could speak later.

Aaron Blake

05:30 p.m. | Polling suggests big night for Santorum

Polling in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri has been thin. But what data we do have points to a good night for Rick Santorum.

Surveys from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling show Santorum leading in both Minnesota and Missouri, with Romney headed for victory in Colorado.



While these are automated surveys, Nate Silver of the New York Times argues that the demographics in each state back up PPP’s results. Romney performs poorly with evangelical Christian voters, who are expected to turn out in relatively high numbers in both Missouri and Minnesota.

Of course, even if Santorum wins two states tonight, it won’t really change much in the long term; he still has a very slim chance at the nomination.

What he can do is weaken Romney a bit.

Rachel Weiner

5:41 p.m. | These states are quirky, too

The Daily Beast’s Ben Jacobs writes out that while the political “quirks” of early primary states like New Hampshire and Iowa are well-known, Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado have some of their own unique factors at play. Here are some of the “oddities” of each state:


Gary Hart revs a crowd in 1984 ahead of the New York primary. (Warren Jorgensen - ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Colorado has several influential, left-leaning millionaires, a flailing tea party presence, and was the base for the political careers of Gary Hart and, more briefly, Hunter S. Thompson.

Minnesota has a “Jewish Senate seat” — it has had at least one Jewish U.S. Senator has since 1978 — despite that only 1 percent of its population is Jewish. And there is technically no Democratic party there. Liberals in Minnesota call themselves the DFL.

Missouri has voted for the winning presidential candidate in all but two races since 1904. Of the three states holding nominating contests tonight, it has the most recent odd scandal: Last year photos emerged of Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder in a St. Louis bar that regularly hosts “pantless parties.”

Natalie Jennings

5:20 p.m. | Who is where tonight?

None of the four remaining Republican presidential candidates will be in the same state tonight. To recap:

Mitt Romney is in Colorado, the one state he is projected to win.

Rick Santorum is in Missouri after stopping in all three states today.

Ron Paul is in Minnesota, the state where he apparently could finish second.

• And Newt Gingrich is in ... Ohio (where the primary isn’t until Super Tuesday on March 6, but early voting begins tomorrow).

Aaron Blake

5:15 p.m | Romney headed to Georgia tomorrow

Mitt Romney is headed to the Peach State.


Mitt Romney lands in Colorado, as instagrammed by the Post’s Phil Rucker. (Philip Rucker / The Washington Post)

The former Massachusetts governor’s campaign announced Tuesday that Romney is holding an event with supporters in Atlanta at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Romney is also expected to hold a closed-door fundraising event tomorrow evening.

Romney’s rivals, meanwhile, are spread out across the country: Newt Gingrich continues his campaign swing in Ohio with a morning event in Cleveland, and Rick Santorum spends the day in Texas. Ron Paul’s schedule is TBD.

Felicia Sonmez

5:07 p.m. | MINNESOTA | Breaking down the electorate

Micah Cohen over at the New York Times’s great FiveThirtyEight blog takes an interesting look at the political geography of Minnesota.

This is the state, you may recall, with the longest-running streak of voting Democratic for president. (But that’s really only because it was the only state to vote for home-stater Walter Mondale in 1984.)

But as for tonight’s caucuses, here are the three districts that matter:

The 6th district north of the Twin Cities, which is home to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R), is known for evangelical voters and megachurches. This should be Santorum Territory.

The 3rd district west of the Twin Cities is more Romney Country — that is, wealthy suburbanites who tend to be more moderate.

The 2nd district south of the Twin Cities is the other big one. Here you have more of a traditional across-the-board conservatives — a place where the battle over the caucuses may be won.

Aaron Blake

4:26 p.m. | Can Santorum win Missouri?


Santorum signs autographs yesterday in Golden, Colo. (RICK WILKING - REUTERS)

As Fix blogger Aaron Blake noted today, Rick Santorum seems to have momentum in Missouri, a state where rival Mitt Romney has spent little time, but which is also not awarding any delegates in today’s primary. Blake writes:

By essentially investing nothing in the beauty contest of a primary in Missouri, Romney’s team has lowered expectations to the lowest possible level, which severely limits whatever bump Santorum may be able to salvage.

Whether Santorum picks up Missouri, or even Minnesota, the bigger question might be: will it matter? Read Aaron’s full take.

3:54 p.m. | Latest Tweets from Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri

If you’re looking to keep up with tonight’s caucus results, you can subscibe to the Post’s GOP Primaries Twitter list. It includes our campaign team plus journalists and Republican Party officials in all three states.

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