Santorum’s Colorado Victory Throws GOP Prez Race Into Chaos

The Durango Herald’s Joe Hanel, who has done an admirable job this week accurately covering the statements of GOP presidential primary candidates on tour in Colorado–in marked contrast to the inconsequential fluff prevailing from most local media:

Mitt Romney arrived in Denver on Tuesday ready for a victory party in the Colorado Republican caucuses. He left stunned, as Rick Santorum claimed victory…

The night belonged to Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, who also won the Minnesota caucus and a nonbinding primary in Missouri.

“This was a good night for Rick Santorum,” Romney said. “But I expect to become our nominee with your help.”

…Santorum addressed supporters in Missouri and said Tuesday’s results show what happens when Romney doesn’t outspend his rivals by a 5-to-1 margin in negative ads. As he did in Colorado throughout the last week, Santorum insisted that Romney is the wrong messenger for the GOP against President Barack Obama.

“I don’t stand here and claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. I stand here and claim to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama,” Santorum said.

Santorum fought hard for his showing in Colorado and invested more time here than any of the other three.

Statewide, attendance at this year’s Republican caucuses in Colorado was actually down several thousand from the 2008 total of over 70,000 participants–strongly arguing against the pre-11PM yesterday narrative of “great enthusiasm” among Colorado Republicans. In the end, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s retail-politics strength in rural areas, and big wins in conservative El Paso and working class Adams Counties put him over the top here. Against a Mitt Romney campaign machine that was unbeatable in 2008.

There’s no overstating it: we were Romney’s “firewall state” last night. We are broadly considered a bellwether state for the Rocky Mountain West, and if anything presuppose a built-in advantage for Romney due to religious affinity. This was a crushing–and telling–defeat.

And in the proud tradition of recent local GOP candidates such as Ken Buck and Dan Maes, Santorum’s win represents a tremendous repudiation of the Republican establishment in Colorado–which solidly backed Romney, and had no real expectation that he might lose. Yesterday, that who’s-who list of GOP establishment luminaries proved totally powerless to stop a Santorum caucus insurrection operating on a fraction of Romney’s resources.

And now, for the second time in this still-early primary season, the GOP’s putative “frontrunner” has lost resoundingly to his more conservative flavor-of-the-month. Between now and Super Tuesday, we expect the withering barrage of fire that has more or less knocked Newt Gingrich out of contention to be turned on Santorum, and it’s anybody’s guess as to whether he can survive. But we’re reticent now to simply discount Santorum as another flash in the pan. At the very least, we need to reevaluate the worth of James Dobson’s endorsement.

As for Romney? Well, yes, obviously, it’s time to panic.

36 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Lurker19 says:

    Bwahahahahaha. . . ha ha ha ha.

    Ahem. . .

    Bwahahahahaha!!

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)  

    Not only beaten, but Mittens beaten by Sanfizzytorum!!!!

    Made my day.

    • ArapaGOPArapaGOP says:

      I’ll be honest, it was a tough night last night, but I’m proud to have done my part for Mitt Romney. I believe that Romney will still be the nominee, and Romney has the best chance of defeating Barack Obama. I don’t believe that Rick Santorum can beat Obama, and many Coloradans who went for Santorum in the nonbinding poll yesterday did so to send a message to the Republican establishment. Not because they think he can win.

      As the frontrunner through months of attacks from multiple conservative challengers, I concede that Romney’s negatives have gone up. It’s been worse for Romney because the vicious way challengers went after him, and yes, because Romney’s view on some issues have evolved over the course of his career. Colorado Republicans I spoke with last night all say they are willing to support Romney, but those who did not vote for Romney were sending a message that they are not willing to compromise on conservative values.

      The only thing that matters to Democrats is this: none of the Republicans who didn’t support Romney last night will ever support Barack Obama.

      Super Tuesday is the day when the men are always separated from the boys. That’s the day when Romney’s superior organization will count for more against Santorum’s retail politics. In the meantime, Santorum has been more respectful to Romney than others, and that civility will help Romney.

      Once Romney wins the nomination, I assume that all the attacks that can be made against him will have been made over and over again. Democrats are going to discover this is far from over when they realize they are out of ammo, and Romney is still standing.

      With that said, I congratulate Santorum on his win. He earned it with elbow grease.

      • Gilpin Guy says:

        Who knew they were sending a message that they still haven’t figured out why Dan Maes lost?

      • Obama doesn’t need any Republican votes to win .  .  . remember us independents?  The one’s who your GOP conservatives-with-a-strong-message are working so incredibly hard, and successfully, to alienate?

        Not a lot of Republican votes, no Democratic votes, and very, very few unaffiliated votes?  I dunno, that doesn’t sound like a great plan for success in November, but then I’m not the same caliber of electoral strategist that you are.  

      • Ralphie says:

        I’ve been happy exactly twice.

        I certainly understand what it’s like to back a loser.

      • VanDammerVanDammer says:

        Super Tuesday is the day when the men are always separated from the boys.

        Cute choice of words — which is why it sux to be a woman in your GOP.

      • AristotleAristotle says:

        Okay, calling an easy prediction like this a prophesy is exaggerating it, but you spun it exactly as I said you would:

        A-BOT isn’t even here to provide the weak spin that’s already making the rounds (e.g., that this is only one February contest, and that relatively few delegates were at stake – true, but very much beside the point).

        The point isn’t that Mittens won’t be the GOP nominee, but that Republicans don’t like him. That’s shown in the persistence of Not-Romneys. It’s also that Mitt is apparently taking his nomination for granted, acting like the rich kid that he is, buying the nomination rather than working for it. He couldn’t be bothered to really campaign in Colorado and it cost him in a more important way than mere delegates.

        Anyway, thanks for going according to the script. It’s just one more bit of proof that you’re a hired hand.

  2. HeavyG says:

    I don’t see the Donald claiming credit like he did in NV, what a schlub.

    Mint Rawmoney took CO for granted, he deserved to lose.

    Finally, while caucuses are fun, they can be stacked to provide surprises that have no guarantee of holding come Primary time.

    Mike Miles proved that.

    Let’s see if R.money’s carpet bombing works a second time.  

    • BlueCat says:

      but doesn’t negate the fact that this was supposed to be a sure thing for Mittens,  Also doesn’t negate the fact that enthusiasm for him and for participation in general was lower than in 2008, meaning the Tea Party that was the big story right after the 2008 elections and continuing to figure large in the common wisdom past the elections of 2010 has probably done  more damage than good for the GOP, starting in 2010 with TP engendered needless losses that helped Dems here in Colorado and in other states, allowing Dems to keep the Senate.

      Harry Reid, especially, has the crazoids to thank. The unions and the great GOTV probably wouldn’t have been enough without an assist from a super flaky TP opponent in 2010. If Dem luck holds, they will get a few more breaks from the TP before it subsides into irrelevance. If they deliver Santorum against all odds?  Priceless.  But  Mittens will also be quite manageable if the GOP establishment triumphs, as usual.    

  3. Jones Smith says:

    Santorum’s victory is egg on Romney’s face and on the entire GOP elite in Colorado.

    The inability of Romney to parlay Florida into real momentum shows he simply can’t make the sale. The volatility of this race at this point is unbelievable. And it’s happening in ways that will harm the nominee, not help the nominee like it did Obama in 2008. The RNC now knows that locking down Colorado is next to impossible; this state will be in play until the bitter end.

    Even worse for Romney is that he’s invested years’ worth of resources into Colorado after winning 60% in 2008. And he comes away with 35% in 2012? Sheesh.

    The substantially lower GOP caucus turnout in 2012–a year with the nomination still in doubt–from 2008 when McCain had basically locked it up by carrying NH, SC and FL is another very bad sign. Romney will probably win the nomination, and Republicans will vote for him, but will the state party have the manpower to persuade and turn out swing voters?

    It’s a long ways to Super Tuesday–nearly a month-long narrative of Mitt Romney looking like a deer in the headlights last night.

    And now Romney is going to have to shed some of the deadweight in his operations if he’s ever going to get a decent ground game together, which means more process stories about chaos in the campaign.

    The only thing he’s got going for him is the capacity to compete in many states on Super Tuesday. Newt and Santorum should come up with a division of labor if either or both want to make it to the convention.  

  4. VoyageurVoyageur says:

    Except for his passionate belief that it the duty of every Democrat to work night and day to assure GOP Unity and thus ensure a Republican victory, I find his thoughts more worthy of consideration than many polsters do.

       How about it, Arap?  Where does the Romney campaign, and the Republican Party in general, go from here?

      Does the enthusiasm gap bode ill for Romney — a little snowstorm and he drops Colorado while Santorum fans are willing to trek through ice and snow to back their guy?

      Or did Romney win by losing by building up Santorum while Gingrich sank to unfindable depths, thereby ensuring the anbody but Romney crowd remains likely to split its vote?

      My guess is yes to both questions, but I’d like to hear Romney fans take on the subjects.  

  5. Tom says:

    I strongly suspect that Romney will amass the required delegates for the nomination. As I understand it, the later primaries are supposed to be winner-take-all affairs so even lukewarm support will get Mitt through. With the money he has at his disposal, statewide primaries are a much safer bet anyhow.

    It’s gotta hurt the party when every opportunity for the activists to state a preference results in a Romney embarrassment. The theory that the GOP nomination contest would be a strengthening exercise like the Clinton-Obama battle doesn’t seem to be working out. Republicans are supposed to be better than Dems about uniting against a common enemy, but the sheer irreconcilable differences between candidates seems to argue against it happening this time. Does anybody expect the true-believing Ron Paul supporters to fall in line?  

    • ajb says:

      I don’t know. They all say the same things.

      The problem is that:

      1. Romney also said the opposite.

      2. Gingrich DID the opposite.

      3. Santorum actually believes what he’s saying.

  6. now steer his gigantic luxury yacht, The Inevitable, far, far right into the icy waters of GOP batshit crazy .  .  .  God bless the nut balls and flat-earthers.

    The Inevitable now sails far out beyond the edge of general electability from which no one has ever returned.  Godspeed R.Money and all who sail with you.  What’s a devout Mormon going to do with a restless crew and no rum on board?

  7. VanDammerVanDammer says:

    and not because it’s anything like a sign of Frothy going supernova nor any true delegate loss since they aren’t bound at the convention.  But Mitt’s loss is gonna cause a control freak out. Mitt does NOT like surprises (watch his reactions to any ambush interviews) and gets shaky when things don’t look assured. Mitt likes control & the realization of set expectations.

    CO was a butt-thumpin’ surprise for Mr. Assured. He had 60% in ’08 and his moneyed connections & boardroom dealings made it feel very safe for ’12. He was set for a victory lap in Denver but now backsteps out chagrined at seriously mismanaged expectations — just what happened?

    Even active pols on this site clearly felt  Mittens had CO pretty well secured and didn’t really begrudge the lack of attention shown,  so how did his caucus reps get Rickrolled? Was there a pulpit push to seed the caucuses with a religious right army? Frothy took the outlying caucuses and the coveted bastions of right-think evangelicals in Larimer & the Springs and it has to shake Mitt’s calm safe risk-averse game plan. Mitt seriously lacks the motivation factor and it takes more than money & breeding to get folks up off their asses to pitch for you.  If Mitt thought otherwise then he truly has not paid attention.    

    • LakewoodTodd says:

      Did they not see who the GOP nominated in 2010? I can’t believe they felt so assured of victory in 2012 when so much had changed within the dynamics of the GOP since 2008. And yet, that seems to be the case. They were completely asleep at the switch.

      I thought Romney was going to win here but then again, I thought it was Gingrich’s campaign that was the rusty old machine not Romney’s.

  8. I would have no problem with either Mitt Romney, or Rick Santorum, being my party’s presidential nominee.  I do cringe at the thought of Newt Gingrich in that role though.  Ron Paul?  Well… this country is not going to elect a 77 year old to be POTUS, no matter who he is, or how good his ideas are.    

    Clearly, Romney took too much for granted in Colorado.  Both Santorum and he have their flaws — as do all of us — and certainly every politician, including the president.  

    Barack Obama promised “hope and change” in 2008, but provided very few details as to what that would be.  Unfortunately for him, that allowed everyone listening to make up  their own definition of that concept.  That made it impossible for the president to fulfill his promise to everyone’s satisfaction.    

    Think that isn’t true?  Try listening to AM760.  I’ve learned that progressives are much tougher on Democrats than conservatives are on Republicans… at least on talk radio.

    Obama ran, in 2008, wanting to make that election a referendum on George W. Bush… who wasn’t even on the ballot.  I always thought that was grossly unfair to John McCain.  Considering what the former Navy POW went through, I’d say he was his own man, more than the 43rd president ever was.  He hardly would have been Bush’s third term.

    That being said, President Obama now seems to not want this election to be a referendum on his first term.  I don’t think voters will see it as anything but that.

    I do believe Colorado is a toss up.  The president may very well win here.  The underlying current going on nationally, though, is the U.S. Senate.  With the Democrats defending 23 seats and the GOP only 10, the probability of the Republicans taking control is pretty high, particularly since Americans seem to like the concept of divided government.

    I know Democrats like to think that they can regain the House of Representatives, but I think that is a pipe dream.  Just look at Colorado’s new 6th CD.  It may be evenly divided among registered voters, but there’s a reason Morgan Carroll, Andrew Romanoff, and Brandon Shaffer begged off taking on Mike Coffman in 2012.  Their own internal polls showed each of them unable to beat the well known and popular congressman.  What chance do you think Joe Miklosi or Perry Haney have?  

    As far as the other congressional races across the country are concerned, most voters are not comfortable with a very liberal Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.  Democrats should have found a new leader after the 2012 debacle.        

    Should President Obama win a second term, I  anticipate a huge GOP wave in the 2014 congressional races.  Obama’s new health care law — if it is held to be constitutional — will be fully in effective then and the true financial costs to businesses and individuals will be apparent to everyone.  Since only Democrats voted for it, there will be no political cover for their candidates in 2014.

    In any event, this should be an exciting year for politics in Colorado!

    • ajb says:

      That was a well-reasoned response. I do disagree with several of your points, though.

      Santorum can’t win. He’ll lose indies and women by a large margin. Can you say Komen?

      Obama provided a long list of campaign promises, many of which he has managed to keep despite unprecedented us of the filibuster by Senate Republicans. This is all well documented online.

      Don’t blame Obama for calling McCain a Bush 3rd term. McCain brought that on himself by endorsing so many of Bush’s positions.

      Obama is clearly making this a referendum about Republicans in Congress. Why not? They’re less popular than Paris Hilton and Communism.

      Nancy Pelosi? When that’s all you’ve got to campaign on, you’re shooting blanks.

      As for ACA, repeal won’t happen. If it does, Republicans are toast in both 2014 and 2016. People like the provisions of ACA. If you disagree, I’d like to hear your rationalization for rescission and other insurance company abuses.

  9. thiokuutoo says:

    If it were not unheard of for any Republican to cause voter fraud I would be concerned about the late tally.

    However, as I said earlier, Weird Uncle Rickie got the vote of the gay Republicans and other strange people. Mittens is not going to be the Republican going against Obama. The same reason they will find a way to oust Uncle Rickie. Until the Kochk bro’s figure out who they want the contest is undecided.

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