Shock wins for Santorum bring in campaign dollars

Supporters pledge $250,000 within hours of their man's surprise victories in three states

Click to follow
The Independent US

Rick Santorum, the social conservative who roared back to snatch three states from the supposed front-runner, Mitt Romney, in the race for the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday night, said his campaign had raised a quarter of a million dollars online within a few hours of his wins and was quickly gaining speed.

"We are doing very, very well raising money," Mr Santorum said yesterday as he geared up to try to capitalise on his stunning clean sweep of Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. "We definitely are the campaign with the momentum, the enthusiasm on the ground."

Even though the frantic pace of the primary and caucus season eases off a little now, with nothing in the diary until a televised debate in two weeks, the candidates quickly fanned out to court voters before contests in Arizona and Michigan in three weeks, and then 11 states on the all-important "Super Tuesday" of 6 March.

While this may still be Mr Romney's race to lose, the dramatic events of Tuesday night were a reminder that it is still unpredictable. He came third in Minnesota, behind the former Pennsylvania senator Mr Santorum and the libertarian Texas congressman, Ron Paul.

In Missouri, Mr Santorum beat Mr Romney by 30 points, though it was a non-binding result there and he was helped by the failure of Newt Gingrich to get on the ballot. Most shocking was the nail-biting night in Colorado – a state Mr Romney was meant to have in the bag. Instead, the former Massachusetts governor ended up losing it to Mr Santorum by five points.

Just as astonishing is the positive reversal of fortune, of Mr Santorum, who notably failed to convert his win in Iowa – belatedly declared – into any kind of momentum in subsequent races. All of a sudden, he can boast having won four states against three for Mr Romney and one for Mr Gingrich.

Mr Romney still far outpaces his rivals in numbers of delegates backing him for the Republican Party convention in August. Indeed, under the arcane rules, Mr Santorum does not immediately gain new delegates from Tuesday's voting, though he is likely to do so further down the road. And the money and organisational advantages still rest firmly with Team Romney.

Yet things seemed very different yesterday, even if in this race momentum can be taken away as quickly as it is given. The candidate furthest in the ditch is surely Mr Gingrich, who thought he was going to be the conservative standard-bearer to stop Mr Romney. He might as well hand over his hard hat to Mr Santorum, who can already hear the distant booms of heavy Romney ordnance being fired in his direction.

An extremely deflated-looking Stuart Stevens, a top political strategist to Mr Romney, spelled out where he thinks the chinks in Mr Santorum's armour lie – in his record as a US senator and Washington insider, particularly on snagging "pork-barrel" federal dollars for pet projects in his home state.

"I mean, he's someone who's been involved in Washington for a very long time, and that's a completely different approach than Governor Romney," Mr Stevens said, standing in an empty hall where, moments earlier, his candidate had spoken to supporters and not even tried to put a positive spin on the awful result. "I just don't think it's a time when people are looking to Washington to solve problems with Washington."

Mr Romney must take care not to make his party's conservatives crosser than they already are. And he must also find ways to endear himself more effectively to the Republican base.

In a forlorn post-results speech, he offered a new tale about his father George, the former Michigan governor, and the trick he developed when he was an apprentice plasterer. "He learned how to put a handful of nails in his mouth and spit them out, point forward," Mr Romney said. The candidate smiled wanly, aware that tales of his father are no substitute for tales about himself to make him seem human.

Comments