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Santorum Pulls Off Major Wins in Three Republican Nominating Contests

  • VOA News

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum speaks to supporters at his primary night rally at the St. Charles Convention Center in St. Charles, Missouri, February 7, 2012. REUTERS/Sarah Conard (UNITED STATES - Tags: PO

Rick Santorum's campaign for the U.S. Republican Party's presidential nomination received a major boost with victories in Tuesday's nominating contests in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado.

With most of the returns counted, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania won the Minnesota caucuses with 45 percent of the vote. U.S. Representative Ron Paul came in second with 27 percent and ex-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, considered the Republican frontrunner, finished a distant third with 17 percent.

In the Missouri primary, with all the votes counted, Santorum won 55 percent of the vote, while Romney came in second with 25 percent and Paul finished third with 12 percent.

In a victory speech in Missouri late Tuesday, Santorum declared “conservatism is alive and well” in Missouri and Minnesota.

He also declared himself the true “conservative alternative” to both Romney and Democratic President Barack Obama. He accused Mr. Obama of arrogance by failing to listen to the American people in their opposition to the bailouts for the financial sector and health care reform.

Santorum also pulled off an upset victory over Romney in the Colorado caucuses, winning more than 40 percent of the vote, with Romney earning 35 percent and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich winning 13 percent to finish a distant third place.

Romney had won Colorado by a large margin in the 2008 Republican nominating contest.

Santorum's triple victories dealt a blow to Romney's status as the favorite to win the Republican nomination. Romney congratulated Santorum during a rally in Denver before the Colorado results were announced, but told the crowd he still expected to become the nominee.

A total of 70 delegates are up for grabs in Colorado and Minnesota, although they will be awarded later at district and state conventions. Missouri's primary is non-binding, with no delegates at stake.

To be selected to face Mr. Obama in the November general election, a Republican needs to have the support of 1,144 delegates at the Republican nominating convention in Florida in August.

Despite Romney's wins in the primaries in Florida, Nevada and New Hampshire, a new poll Tuesday indicated Republican support for him nationwide has fallen during the past month. In a telephone survey conducted this month, 29 percent of Republican voters backed Romney, down 1 percent from a survey in early January. Paul's support grew to 21 percent, putting him in second place ahead of Gingrich . Santorum also saw a 5-percent rise in support to land close behind Gingrich .

The Reuters news agency says the results suggest Romney still has many doubters among Republicans.

Gingrich finished a distant fourth in Minnesota, and was not on the ballot in Missouri. He is focusing his attention on Ohio, as the state begins early voting ahead of its primary on March 6. Gingrich has vowed to fight all the way to the Republicans' August nominating convention.

In a hypothetical election match-up, an ABC News-Washington Post poll indicates President Obama would beat Romney. The survey found Mr. Obama ahead 51 percent to 45 percent among registered voters . The poll found that half of those surveyed approve of President Obama's job performance and believe he deserves a second term.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday found Mr. Obama's approval rating is up 1 percent from the January survey to reach 48 percent, but his disapproval rating stayed the same at 49 percent.

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