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Santorum strikes back, Romney faces setback

world Updated: Feb 09, 2012 01:21 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
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Former senator Rick Santorum pulled off a stunning hat-trick picking up all three states that voted or caucused Tuesday upending the Republican presidential race.

Mitt Romney finished second in Colorado and Missouri, and third in Minnesota. Ron Paul was second in Minnesota, and Newt Gingrich was last in the two states he fought.

The race so far: Santorum has won four of the eight states that have voted/caucused; Romney got three and Gingrich one. Paul hasn't won any yet, but is happy coming in second.

Tonight it's not a victory for us, but for our party, for the conservatives, said Santorum, clearly enjoying his first victory speech of the race

The last few weeks had been rough on him. His youngest daughter was taken to hospital with pneumonia forcing him to suspend his campaign, and his poll ratings had languished.

Winning all three would be a huge boost to his campaign, which has been short of resources. Money is going to pour, predict analysts, enabling him to mount a big campaign.

His first post-victory shot Tuesday night was fired at Romney, and then he emptied the gun on Barack Obama, setting himself as the Republican most qualified to take down the president.

Santorum's appeal has been his social conservatism -- pro-life, anti-same sex marriage, big play on faith and family values. He is a hawk on Iran, Syria (abolish post of US ambassador there). The former senator from Pennsylvania sells himself as the only true conservative among the four candidates remaining in the presidential race. While Romney and Gingrich traded negative ads and barbs, Santorum quietly built a campaign working party activists through long and repeated personal contacts.

With four states in his bag Santorum will get a fresh look from Republicans. Another one getting a fresh look, said analysts, was Romney. Does he have in it in him?

The former Massachusetts governor has struggled to find traction with the core of the Republican party, which considers him too moderate.

And he has shown a tendency to score own-goals when things have indeed looked good. After the massive win in Florida, he was expected to do well in the three stated that polled Tuesday.