Come-From-Behind Santorum Wins All Three: 'Whole New Playing Field'

February 8, 2012 - 4:53 AM
APTOPIX Santorum 2012

Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks as his wife Karen, right, listens during a primary night watch party Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, in St. Charles, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

(CNSNews.com) - "Stunning," said the Associated Press. "Huge," "amazing," "incredible" and "surprising" were some of the other adjectives applied by TV pundits to Republican Rick Santorum's triple win in Tuesday's nominating contests.

It wasn't even close. The former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania won by wide margins in all three states.

"Tonight, we had an opportunity to see what a campaign looks like when one candidate isn't outspent 5- or 10-to-1 by negative ads impugning their integrity and distorting their record. This is a more accurate representation, frankly, of what the fall race will look like," Santorum told a cheering crowd in St. Charles, Mo., Tuesday night.

In Colorado, Santorum took 40 percent of the vote to Mitt Romney's 35 percent. (Newt Gringrich and Ron Paul took 13 percent and 12 percent, respectively.)

In Minnesota, Santorum took 45 percent, followed by Ron Paul with 27 percent, Romney with only 17 percent, and Gringrich with 11 percent.

In Missouri's nonbinding primary, where Gingrich was not on the ballot and Santorum was expected to do well, Santorum won with a whopping 55 percent of the vote to 25 percent for Romney and 12 percent for Paul.



"I don't stand here to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama," Santorum said. On health care, cap-and-trade, and the Wall Street bailout, "Mitt Romney has the same positions as Barack Obama," Santorum said.

"This was a good night for Rick Santorum," Romney told supporters in Denver on Tuesday night. "We'll keep on campaigning down the road, but I expect to become our nominee with your help." Romney added, "When this primary season is over, we're going to stand united as a party behind our nominee to defeat Barack Obama."

Romney's camp began downplaying the results hours before the voting began. Rich Beeson, his political director, released a memo earlier in the day noting that Sen. John McCain lost 19 states on the way to capturing the GOP presidential nomination in 2008. McCain, of course, went on to lose the election to Barack Obama.

Conservative voters remain wary of Romney, who has the support of many establishment Republicans and is considered more moderate than conservative on the issues.  Many conservatives also have been turned off by Romney and Gingrich tearing each other apart.

"These caucuses matter," Santorum told Fox News Tuesday night, before learned he'd won Colorado as well as Minnesota and Missouri. "I think you're going to see our campaign get a real shot of energy coming out of this Tuesday."

Santorum said he expects to do "very, very well" in Ohio, Michigan and in the south.

"I think we have a message that's going to play well all across this country," he told Fox News.

Santorum said the nominating contests in the first five states were "pre-set for a long time," allowing some of the candidates to spend huge amounts of money.

"So the Romney campaign had a huge leg-up on those first five states. They don't going forward. They just haven't run the kind of campaigns in the rest of the country that they ran in those five states this time," Santorum said.

"So it's a whole new playing field."

Santorum said he believes he can beat Romney one-on-one, and he said Republicans have a "much higher probability of losing" if Romney or Gingrich run against Barack Obama in the general election.

(The Associated Press contributed some of the information in this report.)