Can Rick Santorum take advantage of his big night in the GOP primaries?

Can Rick Santorum take advantage of his big night in the GOP primaries?

What the (insert four letter word here)? I really didn’t expect this.

Rick Santorum easily won two states on Tuesday night and won Colorado by five points. Santorum wins handily 45%- 27% over Ron Paul in Minnesota, with Mitt Romney at 17% and Newt Gingrich at 11% (with 89% reporting). In Missouri, Santorum won by an even greater margin, 55%-25% over Romney with Paul at 12% and uncommitted at 4%. In Colorado, Santorum received 40% of the vote, Romney 35%, Gingrich 13% with Paul at 12%.

I still believe Romney will be the nominee and I’m not going out on a ledge saying that. But what, if anything, do Santorum wins in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado mean about Romney’s electability in November? If the eventual Republican nominee gets pounced by the most conservative alternative, does that mean Romney loses these states in November? Do Santorum voters– not seeing much distinction between Obama and Romney– stay home? Do the urban centers in and around Kansas City, St. Louis, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Denver give Obama these states when conservatives stay home?

The night’s biggest loser is Newt Gingrich. Newt’s now not the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney; Rick Santorum, at least for now, is. As it stands, Rick Santorum has won more states than Mitt Romney. Newt’s argument that Santorum must get out of the race so the conservatives can rally around him is a patently silly argument. Newt has been utterly rebuked at an important stretch in the race, as we hit a slow period where after Maine caucuses on Saturday, the next primaries are February 28th in Arizona and Michigan.

If Newt can’t beat Romney and Ron Paul and Rick Santorum– he’s done.

The irony is that now Mitt Romney needs Newt Gingrich to stay in the race. With Newt out, the battle becomes Mitt vs. Santorum with Ron Paul taking his 15%.

The same cycle that has gone on since the Iowa straw poll will now repeat itself with Rick Santorum as the "anti-Mitt." The same thing that happened to Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich will happen to Rick Santorum. People will look at Santorum and realize that he will lose to Obama in the general election and the GOP will again shuffle, heads down, back to Mitt Romney.

What is more clear now, however, is that Obama will beat Romney in November. If Romney is having this much trouble with Rick Santorum, how is he going to compete with the political machine that will be the Barack Obama juggernaut in 2012? Like him or not, Obama will have nearly $1 billion to wage a three month war against Mitt Romney, after Romney had to expend his resources trying to convince the GOP he’s a conservative.

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  • How many delegates did Santorum win in these beauty contests?

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