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Right Turn
Posted at 11:23 PM ET, 02/07/2012

Santorum wins two races, swinging the momentum again

Missouri’s primary Tuesday night was a non-binding beauty contest. On CNN, John King intoned, “It is absolutely meaningless.” Mitt Romney didn’t go to the state to campaign. But the headlines tomorrow will report that Rick Santorum overwhelmingly defeated Romney (in a matchup where Newt Gingrich was not on the ballot).

Minnesota, too, has been called for Santorum, after he campaigned hard there and galvanized conservative voters. His margin of victory there was huge as well. Romney made a calculated decision not to spend time or money in either state, but in doing so he allowed Santorum to claim, at least until the next contest, bragging rights.

Colorado, the third state to vote Tuesday, is yet to be determined, but the two wins do several things for Santorum and the landscape of the race.

First, it means Gingrich’s days as the leading not-Romney are just about over. His baggage has finally weighed him down and pushed him down to the bottom of the pack, and he will have trouble raising money and garnering attention from here on out.

Second, Santorum will be able to raise some money, get plenty of coverage and claim to be the final anti-Romney contender. And finally, there apparently is no such thing as momentum in this race. Santorum won Iowa and nothing else until tonight. Gingrich won South Carolina and is now, we think, out of it. Romney won huge in Nevada and Florida but stumbled (albeit in a state with no binding results) in a state dominated by social conservatives (that is, not unlike Iowa).

An obviously elated Santorum thanked the voters in Missouri and Minnesota and touted the revival of conservatism. His delivery was not polished, but he clearly took it to the president, charging him with thinking he “knows best” on health care and other issues.

He did not, however, spare Romney. He declared that Romney had only the advantages of money and organization, assets he wouldn’t have in the fall. (Not the most gracious line, to be sure.) He tried, oddly enough, to pivot away from his purely blue-collar message, saying his economic agenda was praised by the Wall Street Journal and he was concerned about all Americans (another Romney shot). He then migrated back to a more positive conservative message, attacking Obama for his action against the Catholic Church and extolling freedom. It was a mixed effort, not bad but not as strong as his Iowa speech.

The results in Colorado (where Romney is expected to do well) will trickle in. But Romney now will have to compete hard for Arizona and Michigan at the end of the month. If he holds his advantage in those states, the headlines will flip once again, pronouncing him the “certain” winner. But for now Santorum did what he needed to — he survived to fight another day.

More on Rick Santorum’s sweep

Rogers: Does Santorum’s win spell the end for Gingrich?

Achenbach: Voters, not pundits or pollsters, decide elections

Petri: Santorum, beyond the sweater vest

By  |  11:23 PM ET, 02/07/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign

 
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