Contests in CO, MN and MO: Santorum Rising?

Erika Johnsen

2/7/2012 9:21:00 AM - Erika Johnsen

Today could be a good day for Rick Santorum in today's presidential nomination contests: caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, and a non-binding primary in Missouri. Granted, polling is pretty scarce for these three states, but Public Policy Polling has Santorum leading in Minnesota and Missouri and taking second place behind Mitt Romney in Colorado:

Rick Santorum could be headed for a big day in today's contests in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri. Missouri looks like a probable win for Santorum. He's at 45% there to 32% for Mitt Romney and 19% for Paul. Minnesota provides an opportunity for a win as well. Currently he has a small advantage with 33% to 24% for Romney, 22% for Newt Gingrich, and 20% for Ron Paul. And Santorum should get a second place finish in Colorado, where Romney appears to be the likely winner. The standings there are Romney at 37%, Santorum at 27%, Gingrich at 21%, and Paul at 13%.

Byron York wonders if this is, perhaps, the big moment for Rick Santorum to replace Gingrich as Romney's real competition:

Despite all the talk about how fired up Republicans are to take on Barack Obama, the last two contests suggest GOP voters aren't very excited about picking a candidate. ...

The more benign explanation is that voters decided Romney has the nomination in the bag and didn't take the time to vote. The more troubling explanation is that the overwhelming negativity of the race just turned voters off -- in other words, Republicans alienated their own base.

Romney, with his carpetbombing negative ads, is the chief offender in that -- after losing in Nevada, Gingrich asked, "If the only way Romney wins is suppressing turnout, how's he going to do that in the fall?" But Gingrich's angry reactions have given Republicans a picture of their two leading candidates as whiners and bullies -- certainly not an image the party wants to carry into the general election.

That's where Santorum comes in. Back in Iowa, voters turned to Santorum after first exhausting other possibilities; when they looked around, they realized he had been there all along.