But former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has “shaken the bag” with his surprise string of victories in all three of this week’s rounds of balloting. Santorum won Tuesday’s party caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado by large margins and swept the non-binding Missouri primary by a 30-point margin. And in so doing, he has put an entirely new complexion on the race.
It has been clear that despite Romney’s impressive business record and his presidential demeanor, many conservatives have been having a hard time warming up to his candidacy, especially after hearing of his gubernatorial career as a Massachusetts moderate. And that’s despite the fact that his moderation would likely be a strong suit when running against President Obama this fall — if he can get the nomination, that is.
Although Romney’s performance on the stump has improved thus far this year, he remains a less-than-compelling speaker with a propensity for saying things that hardly help his candidacy. And his endorsement this week of an increase in the minimum wage reinforced the perception that he isn’t quite as up to speed on the issues as he needs to be. He should know that such increases tend to dry up entry-level jobs, especially for teenagers and minorities.
Up until now, the conservative bloc in the GOP primaries has been divided among several other candidates, with just two now remaining — Gingrich and Santorum. Tuesday’s results offered another glimpse at what the rest of the race might look like if they were not dividing that portion of the party’s electorate. It also is significant that Romney did so poorly Tuesday in states in which he had done well during his 2008 primary run.
Santorum may now find it easier to raise campaign funds and recruit volunteers as he heads toward Super Tuesday. Conversely, Gingrich might find it much harder to do so, based on his lackluster results since his win in South Carolina a month ago. Gingrich, however, has vowed to stay in the race until the summer convention. And based on Tuesday’s showing, Santorum might do so as well.
Many had suspected the nomination process would be wrapped up with a bow on top by the time it made it to Georgia. That obviously will not be the case.