Rick Santorum Sweeps Three Wins in GOP Race

Former Pennsylvania senator now has four victories in his primary column.

Just as former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was gaining a head of steam after winning two primaries in a row, he was dealt another major setback on Tuesday. The man who appeared to be back on track as the leading Republican presidential nominee was bested in the day's three contests by former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.

Following a convincing win in Florida
 last week, Romney was shocked by losing to Santorum in caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, as well as a non-binding vote in Missouri, where no delegates were at stake.

Santorum won Colorado with 40 percent of the vote to Romney's 35, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in third at 13 percent and Congressman Ron Paul in last place with 12 percent; 33 delegates are at stake in that race.

In Minnesota, the gap was much wider, as Santorum rolled up 45 percent of votes to 27 for Paul, 17 for Romney and 11 for Gingrich. According to unofficial results, Santorum handily took the Missouri vote with 55 percent to Romney's 25 and Paul's 12; Gingrich failed to make the ballot in that state. Santorum won every one of Missouri's 114 counties in a stunning rebuke of Romney.

"Conservatism is alive and well in Missouri and Minnesota ... Tonight was a victory for the voices of our party, conservatives and Tea Party people," Santorum told his excited supporters at a St. Charles, Missouri, victory rally. "I don't stand here and claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney ... I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama."

In one of the most unpredictable GOP presidential primary races in memory, Romney has been unable to seal the deal, and pundits concluded that the low turnout in all three of Tuesday's contests signaled that the party's base has not gotten excited about any of the candidates yet.

Though Santorum now officially has four wins to his credit — he was awarded the Iowa caucus win following a recount— -- the real news was that Romney failed to seal the deal after campaigning hard in Colorado and outspending his rivals by a large margin.

But with the campaign going into a quiet period for much of the month, Romney has a chance to reload and get his house back in order before the Michigan and Arizona primaries on February 28. The next big test will come on Super Tuesday (March 6), when 10 states will offer up more than 400 delegates.

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