For those shocked by Rick Santorum’s sweep in last night in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, think again. It was merely a reflection of the political reality for this entire nomination process: The most conservative elements of the Republican Party are not sold on Mitt Romney.
Without entrance or exit polls, it’s not as obvious, but the voters who participate in primaries and caucuses that award no delegates – that describes all three of Tuesday’s contests – are the most dedicated, activist elements of the GOP. That’s why John McCain, after locking up the nomination in 2008, performed as poorly as Romney has in many of the same small caucuses. Romney is facing the same dynamic McCain did: an establishment that is settling on him, but a base that is disillusioned.
But there are some fresh red flags. Romney committed resources to Colorado, and his presence there on election night suggested that his campaign was at least expecting a tight race. He lost by 5 points.
The biggest tests going forward are the late-February Michigan and Arizona primaries. Can Santorum parlay his solid showings in the Midwest to win a state tailor-made to his campaign argument? Will Arizona Republicans, whose base is as conservative as any, reject Romney’s center-right positioning?
If the answers to those questions are yes, then Team Romney has a lot of problems. But if Romney can parlay his organization, message, and money into two big victories, last night will be a blip on their radar screens.
—Josh Kraushaar, Hotline Executive Editor
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRIMARY REPORT
Santorum Wins Every Race but One
Santorum managed to win all three GOP contests last night, except for one key race: the money game. National Journal’s Jackie Koszczuk writes that Romney still sits comfortably atop the pack in terms of money, and Santorum's campaign continues to struggle to raise cash.
Santorum: Fundraising Has Jumped Since Recent Wins NEW!
Santorum says he's taken in an estimated $500,000 between Tuesday morning and Wednesday, in part due to his sweep of three states Tuesday night. He says this haul will help him compete with the deep-pocketed Mitt Romney, which is likely more of an understatement than he'd like to admit – Santorum was fast running out of funds before his astonishing performance Tuesday.
Santorum: 'Conservatives Are Beginning to Get It'
In TV appearances early Wednesday, Santorum argued that he is the candidate to beat after sweeping GOP contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, sending a clear message that he is still in this race and that divisions remain within the Republican electorate. Santorum made appearances on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN, avoiding network stations just to target political insiders, tweets New York Times reporter Brian Stelter.
Romney Tries to Show a More Personal Side NEW!
In an attempt to humanize himself on the campaign trail, possibly in response to critics' observations that Romney tends to be impersonal and robotic, the former Massachusetts governor shared personal tales of his relationship with his father and his time working as a lay leader in the Mormon Church.
Romney Fires Back at White House, Aims at Santorum
Well into damage-control mode, Romney attempted to explain the contraception policy in place in Massachusetts while he was governor that was similar to the controversial Obama administration that has taken much flak from the GOP. He also lashed out at Santorum and brushed off the former Pennsylvania senator's Tuesday-night wins.
Romney’s Nearly Maybe Almost Certain Nomination
Yes, it was embarrassing for Romney to have to admit he’d been whipped in three contests, but the Nearly Maybe Almost Certain Nominee of the GOP won’t lose much sleep over Tuesday night’s unfortunate events, National Journal’s Jack Farrell writes.
Trump on Santorum: I Don’t Get Him
Appearing on CNN on Wednesday morning, real-estate mogul and reality-television star Donald Trump shared his thoughts on Santorum, noting the surging candidate's last Senate run where he lost by a wide margin. “I don’t get Rick Santorum,” Trump said. “I don’t get the whole thing.” Trump also wrote an op-ed in today's Washington Times defending Mitt Romney.
Ron Paul’s Fans Want Him to Make a Third-Party Run
Although Paul has said repeatedly he's not planning to make a third-party bid, his avid fan base is clamoring for him to run outside the framework of the two-party system.
Low Turnout Highlights Romney’s Squeeze
Santorum’s clean sweep of Tuesday’s lightly attended GOP contests underscored Romney’s continuing struggles with the GOP base, even as recent national surveys show the front-runner’s standing eroding among independents, as National Journal’s Ronald Brownstein writes. Slate's Dave Weigel notes how low the turnout was.
Romney Attacks Obama on Taxes, Fiscal Policy
Romney attacked President Obama's fiscal policy in a Wednesday morning USA Today op-ed, arguing that the president has placed the country on a dangerous path.
Santorum Surging, but Challenges Await
Santorum’s trio of victories on Tuesday has transformed him overnight into front-runner Romney’s chief rival – but can he sustain his momentum?
Failed Candidates and Faded Icons Reflect Tea Party Decline
Two years after tea party activists helped the GOP capture a majority in the House, mounting evidence indicates that their influence is on the wane. One by one, the movement’s standard-bearers in the GOP race – from Herman Cain to Michelle Bachmann to Rick Perry – have toppled.
Santorum Sweeps Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota
Santorum on Tuesday completed his three-state sweep with a stunning upset in Colorado’s caucus, shaking up a GOP presidential race that has seen more drama than Romney’s campaign envisioned even a week ago.
Romney Hits Speed Bump Named Santorum in Missouri
National Journal's Beth Reinhard writes that Santorum's Missouri win will give Romney's rivals an opening to keep contesting the nomination.
GOP Candidates Blast 9th Circuit Decision on Gay Marriage
In California, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit overturned Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage – and Romney and Gingrich aren't happy about it.
PRESIDENTIAL RACE NEWS SUMMARY
As Massachusetts Governor, Romney Had An Unremarkable Record On Jobs NEW!
[Washington Post, 2/7/12] Despite his claims that he's skilled at job creation from his time with Bain Capital, Romney's tenure as governor of Massachusetts may reveal a different story. During his time in office, job creation remained sluggish in that state, with Massachusetts ranking 47th in the nation in job creation.
Another Twist for GOP as Santorum Fares Well
[New York Times, 2/8/12] Santorum won the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses and a nonbinding primary in Missouri on Tuesday – an unexpected trifecta that raised fresh questions about Romney’s ability to corral conservative support, and Gingrich’s status as chief alternative to the ex-Massachusetts governor. But how much will these victories matter in the long run?
G.O.P. Race Has Hallmarks of Prolonged Battle NEW!
[New York Times, 2/8/12] The New York Times' Nate Silver works the numbers and finds that the support for each of the candidates indicates this year's primary will likely resemble the 1984 Democratic race or the 1976 Republican contest, in that, though there may be a favorite in the race, his opponents are so close behind that he'll have to battle it out through all 50 states to ensure a win at the convention.
Romney Spin Can’t Dent Santorum’s Sweep
[The Hill, 2/8/12] The Romney camp began spinning Tuesday's results before they even came in, downplaying Missouri’s “beauty contest” and painting Santorum as a Washington insider. But the efforts failed to erase the perception that the front-runner suffered a strong setback. Huffington Post banner: "Mittastrophe." And the National Review is concerned about Romney's ability to close it out.
Newt's Two-Man-Race Narrative Collapses After Santorum Victories NEW!
[The Daily Beast, 2/8/12] How will Newt frame the race now that he can no longer call himself the clear anti-Romney candidate?
Rick Santorum's Top 10 Problems
[Politico, 2/8/12] Following his three-state sweep, Santorum's been acting like nothing can stop him now – but Politico suggests 10 things that could slow his momentum down faster than a raging Romney.
Santorum Surged as Romney, Gingrich Fought
[Washington Examiner, 2/8/12] David York writes that while Romney and Gingrich fought over the past several weeks, relying on “investments and name calling,” all that bickering might have turned people off. Meanwhile, the pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, launched a new ad in Ohio against Gingrich.
Romney to Campaign in Maine on Friday
[Bangor Daily News, 2/8/12] One day before the Maine Republican Party releases the results of the statewide caucuses on Saturday, Romney will visit the state. Paul is the only other candidate who has spent much time campaigning there, but Romney is expected to win by a wide margin.
In Chicago And Boston, Machines Prepare For War
[BuzzFeed, 2/8/12] Republican strategist Alex Castellanos points out the similarities between the Romney and Obama campaigns: "Both are big, disciplined, ruthlessly efficient enterprises," and they'll likely be going head-to-head in November.
Foreign Policy Team Preps Romney for World Stage
[Real Clear Politics, 2/8/12] Santorum's showing last night shows Romney's still got an uphill battle to the nomination, but that won't keep his campaign from preparing him for the foreign affairs debates that the GOP nominee will have to engage in during the general race.
Missouri’s Meaningless Primary? Not Anymore
[Washington Post, 2/7/12] The Missouri primary is the only “beauty contest” in the GOP presidential race this year – it awards no delegates – but it might be remembered as the beginning of a very bad stretch for Romney.
Editorial: Nonbinding Race Puts Romney in a Bind
[Denver Post, 2/8/12] The Tuesday night contests had no bearing on delegate selection, which will happen later. But they certainly hold sway over public perception. Romney needs to begin making a better, more forceful case with voters to show that he’s up to the job of challenging Obama.
Huckabee: After Last Night, 'Nobody Is the Inevitable Anything'
[Politico, 2/8/12] If anyone knows about drawn-out primaries, it’s former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. In a Fox News appearance this morning, Huckabee said the race is far from being over and that "nobody is the inevitable anything."
Santorum Fundraiser Bankrolls Daily Caller NEW!
[The Daily Beast, 2/8/12] The appearance of Foster Friess, a major backer of Santorum's super PAC, behind Santorum during his victory speech reminded viewers of Friess' connection to conservative news outlet Daily Caller. The Daily Beast asks if this connection could have effects on the publication's choices on Santorum coverage.
Santorum Downplays Contraception in Victory
[Washington Post, 2/8/12] Santorum’s wide margin of victory could be attributed to social-conservative energy following the Obama administration’s contraception decision. Although he mentioned it in his victory speech last night, Santorum downplayed the issue’s role in his victory this morning.
Ron Paul’s Big Night
[Politico, 2/8/12] Paul had his best night of the race in Minnesota on Tuesday, beating out Romney for a strong second-place showing and proving that he can expand his base of support from four years ago.
15 Fun Facts About the Politics of Minnesota, Colorado, and Mississippi
[The Daily Beast, 2/7/12] There's a lot you didn't know about the three states in which the GOP contests took place, but don't worry, The Daily Beast gathered up all the fun facts.
Watch the Secret Service Stop a Would-Be Romney Glitterbomber
[BuzzFeed, 2/8/12] "Glitterbombing" by gay-rights activists has become a staple on the campaign trail. But there’s one thing they haven’t faced yet: the Secret Service. The men in suits stopped a potential “bombing” last night in Colorado at a Romney rally.
The Best/Worst Ron Paul Fan Music NEW!
[BuzzFeed, 2/8/12] BuzzFeed found six (!) songs (really, five songs and one rap) Ron Paul fans wrote about their love for him--it's the perfect playlist for your next caucus-watching party.