Rick Santorum had a breakthrough night Tuesday, winning GOP presidential contests in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado, all of which is expected to breathe life into his struggling campaign and slow Mitt Romney’s march to the Republican presidential nomination.
The Santorum triumphs promise to, at least temporarily, alter the face of the campaign going into the crucial “Super Tuesday” contests, as the caustic tone of the primaries is expected to continue and intensify. Romney and his allies have signaled that they will use their financial advantage to launch stepped-up attacks on Santorum and on former House speaker Newt Gingrich, the other main challenger.
Santorum solidly defeated Romney in Minnesota and Missouri, and he narrowly edged the former Massachusetts governor in Colorado, according to state GOP officials.
None of this negates Romney's financial advantages, nor does it eliminate the problem that Santorum has not even made the ballot in every state. And as pointed out by the Romney campaign, John McCain lost 19 contests in 2008. But this does serve to keep Santorum -- a candidate who I could gladly vote for -- in the mix for the next several weeks, probably until mid-March at the least. But it also means stepped-up attacks from his GOP rivals -- and from the Left. Expect the former Senator and part-time radio host (he was the fill-in for Bill Bennett for a while) to be the object of some real hits in the days to come.
And as the FiveThirtyEight blog points out, last night's showing also indicates that Romney is vulnerable in the Heartland -- something he must overcome if he gets the nomination and expects to beat an incumbent president from the Midwest.