Campaign signs for Rick Santorum and Ron Paul are seen along a road in Dallas County, Iowa, December 24, 2011. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
The big winner Tuesday? Anybody But Romney.
After eight states have held Republican primaries and caucuses, the ordained front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination has lost the majority of contests. Mitt Romney has won three races (New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada) but he has now lost five (Iowa, South Carolina, Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota).
Here’s the even more unsettling fact for those who would make Romney a nominee: Rick Santorum, who was supposed a footnote to the 2012 contest, has won more states than Mitt Romney. But let’s not succumb to Santorumania just yet.
Yes, yes, of course, the sweater vest had a good night. But the big deal is that Republicans rejected the empty suit.
Rick Santorum may have won beauty contests Tuesday in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, but he won’t even be on the ballot for delegate-rich contests in states such as Indiana and Virginia. He’s still running for vice president, or maybe a cabinet post.
Santorum is a story. But he is not the story.
The story is the fact that Mitt Romney lost so very miserably in three battleground states.
Romney finished second in Colorado and Missouri and, remarkably, barely mustered a third-place finish (behind Santorum and Ron Paul, barely ahead of Newt Gingrich) in Minnesota.
But the place on the list is less telling than than overwhelming levels of opposition to Romney.
In Colorado, 65 percent of Republican caucus-goers voted against the man who started the week as the all-but-declared nominee of their party.
In Missouri, 75 percent of Republican primary voters backed someone other than Romney.
In Minnesota, 83 percent of Republican caucus-goers rejected Romney. That’s particularly striking, as Romney won Minnesota in 2008 with 41 percent of the vote.
In many Minnesota counties, Romney finished fourth, behind Santorum, Paul and Gingrich. Some of the former Massachusetts governor’s worst losses were in collar counties around the Twin Cities, an essential base for Republican presidential contenders in the fall.
Several Minnesota counties recorded less than 5 percent support for Romney. In western Minnesota’s Norman County (Red River Valley), no one caucused for him. Mitt got 0 percent.