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Santorum sweeps 3 states, claims momentum

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
ST. PAUL, Minn. (BP) -- Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum rolled to victories in three states Tuesday, including a surprising win in Colorado that he hopes will make him the leading challenger to Mitt Romney.

Based on polling, Santorum was favored to win a non-binding primary in Missouri and the caucuses in Minnesota, but shocked the favored Romney by also winning the Colorado caucuses.

Santorum still trails in the delegate count, but now can claim momentum and also can point to a fact that is true for at least a few more days: He's won more states than anyone (four). Romney has won three states, Newt Gingrich one. Maine's Republicans hold their caucuses Saturday. After that, there's a two-week hiatus until Feb. 28, when Arizona and Michigan will hold primaries.

"Tonight was not just a victory for us," Santorum said during his victory speech, "but tonight was a victory for the voices of our party, conservatives and Tea Party people, who are out there every single day in the vineyards building the conservative movement in this country, building the base of the Republican Party, and building a voice for freedom in this land."

The next day, Santorum told CNN, "We definitely are the campaign with the momentum."

There were no exit or entrance polls conducted in the three states, so it is not known what percentage of self-identified evangelicals he won, although it appears that evangelicals and social conservatives helped carry him to a sweep.

Whether Santorum can carry that momentum to more victories is uncertain. He does not have the money or the national organization that Romney has, although he did raise about $250,000 alone during the night of his wins.


Pundits were giving plenty of advice the day after Santorum's hat trick. Politico's Alexander Burns listed "five ways smart Republicans think" Santorum can exploit his momentum:

-- "Be the wonk in the field."

"Santorum's zeal for information-rich, sometimes flat-out dull policy talk sets him apart from both his chief opponents," Burns wrote.

-- "Dominate the culture-war moment."

"The controversy over the Susan G. Komen Foundation's funding of Planned Parenthood, the Obama administration's treatment of religious hospitals in health care reform and Tuesday's appeals court decision striking down the California gay marriage ban -- all that adds up to a political opening made for an articulate, uncompromising Catholic Republican."

-- "Challenge Romney on electability."

"The cornerstones of Romney's campaign have always been his perceived electability and strength on the economy. With unemployment numbers dropping and Romney looking less formidable in polling match-ups with the president, Santorum has an opportunity to ask the GOP to reconsider their assumptions about the front-runner."

-- "Hit the late-night circuit."

"Santorum's earnestness can too often cross over into sanctimony. His intensity of feeling can veer into jaw-clenching anger. If he makes a good impression in small groups, he can come off on television as intense to a fault. The 'Leno' set may or may not be the right place to address that. But if Santorum's sweater-vested demeanor translated more clearly on a larger scale, the difference between him and Romney would speak for itself."


-- "Pick a fight on national security."

"With Iran, Syria and North Korea all splashing across the headlines, there could soon be a demand in the race for a candidate who speaks about foreign policy with more depth than Romney and more practical specificity than Gingrich," Burns concluded.

GOP delegate counts vary from website to website, but a tabulation by The New York Times puts Romney with 91 delegates, Santorum 68, Gingrich 29, and Ron Paul 8.

Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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