Santorum takes three races, Romney takes it on the chin - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Santorum takes three races, Romney takes it on the chin

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A clean sweep in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri breathes fresh air and new life into the Santorum campaign. (Source: CNN) A clean sweep in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri breathes fresh air and new life into the Santorum campaign. (Source: CNN)

(RNN) – Rick Santorum swept clean Tuesday's Missouri primary and Minnesota and Colorado caucuses, dealing a staggering blow to presumed front runner Mitt Romney. 

The former Pennsylvania Senator trounced Romney by 30 points in Missouri, bolstered by extensive campaigning in the state and the fact that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich did not appear on the ballot.

In Minnesota, Santorum rode his conservative credentials to a surging win over Ron Paul. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, polled a distant third.

"Conservatism is alive and well in Missouri and Minnesota," Santorum told supporters at his Missouri campaign headquarters Tuesday night.

"Your votes today were not just heard loud and wide across the state of Missouri and Minnesota but they were heard loud and louder all across this country, particularly in a place, I suspect, in Massachusetts they were heard particularly loud tonight." 

Throughout the primary season, Santorum has painted himself as the conservative choice for Republicans not sold on Romney as their candidate, a message that apparently resonated with voters on Tuesday.

"On those issues - health care, the environment, cap and trade and on the Wall Street bailouts - Mitt Romney has the same positions as Barack Obama," Santorum said. 

"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."

Romney publicly took the two losses in stride, congratulating Santorum and wishing him "the very best."

"We'll keep on campaigning down the road, but I expect to become our nominee with your help," he told supporters after his second place finish in Missouri and third place finish in Minnesota. 

Santorum and Romney remained in a tug of war for the lead in Colorado throughout Tuesday night. At one point, Romney lead by a razor-thin margin of two votes.

In the end, Santorum ended the night three for three, garnering 40 percent of the vote in a state presumed to be a lock for the former Massachusetts governor.

The win breathes new life - and new money - into the Santorum campaign, which hasn't notched a victory since the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, the very first contest in the long nomination process.

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