Metropolitik: Is Rick Santorum raining on the campaign parade?

Former Sen. Rick Santorum was the decisive winner on Tuesday night,coming from a widely presumed third place to sweep all three Republicancontests.

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Former Sen. Rick Santorum was the decisive winner on Tuesday night, coming from a widely presumed third place to sweep all three Republican contests — in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado — as he took advantage of presumptive front-runner Mitt Romney’s complacency and “I’m-not-Romney” rival Newt Gingrich’s Gingrichness to whip his base into a vote-crushing froth.

 

Or was he?

 

One might expect a parade of positive headlines for Santorum the day following such an overwhelming rout, and indeed there were some such. Many campaign reports, however, painted the Santorum wins as further cementing Romney’s chances of scoring the nomination even as they do damage to his sense of inevMittability. (Yeah, we went there.)

Confused? Read on.

 

For one, Romney backers point out that all three of Tuesday’s contests were nonbinding. What this means practically is that delegates — whose votes the candidates need to secure in order to become their party’s nominee — will not necessarily be awarded along voting lines. Though it can be expected that delegates will be roughly similar to vote tallies, no one knows for sure.

Perhaps more important, though, is how the Santorum sweeps throw a fat wrench in Gingrich’s Anyone But Romney momentum. The former House speaker, who has been pushing hard to force this mantle upon himself, performed even worse than Romney on Tuesday, and that’s saying a lot. Gingrich has now won one contest to Romney’s three and Santorum’s four. Romney wins so long as the not-Romney crowd continues to split that base.

Of course, it would be a huge miscalculation to write off the message sent by these voters, that being a reaffirmation of one of the 2012 campaign’s most puzzling truths: Despite his presumed victory, massive organization and perfect hair, many voters seem to really dislike Mitt Romney. A recent poll actually shows many voters saying they like him less the more they know him. And they’ll

only come to know him more in the coming months.

The challenge for conservatives will be to coalesce around a single opposition candidate before they end up knowing more than they can stomach.

Follow Brayden Simms on Twitter @metropolitik

Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages.

 
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