Wednesday, February 8, 2012
On to the news of the morning: Rick Santorum's big night Tuesday.
Despite what happened in Minnesota, Missouri and, most importantly, Colorado last night, Mitt Romney is still the front-runner in the Republican race for president. He still has the organization, the money, and the Washington army that will fan out beginning this morning to tell pundits and voters why Rick Santorum should scare them.
Santorum becomes the next - and perhaps final - not-Mitt front-runner. The media, too, will give Santorum a closer look - more than the glance it gave him after his strong showing in Iowa. But if conservative support coalesces around him and abandons Newt Gingrich - the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington this week becomes the next big primary event - Santorum should become a long-term factor.
As for Romney, it's easy to explain away Minnesota and Missouri as Santorum flexing his Midwest muscles, as candidates often do regionally in primaries. Colorado is another thing altogether, and what's most notable is that in the counties where Romney did well in 2008, people didn't turn out to vote this time around.
That's an enthusiasm problem, not just a Santorum problem. Yes, conservatives will come to Romney if he wins the nomination, but their enthusiasm about it should worry all of the GOP heading into November.
The Post's Chris Cillizza says Santorum must prove he can beat a "fully engaged Romney machine." Romney has to address how a presumptive nominee could have such a poor showing in Minnesota. Cillizza, in his winners and losers column, says Ron Paul had a much-needed strong finish in Minnesota after a disappointing showing in Nevada.
Time.com's Mark Halperin says Santorum's victories will give him two weeks in the sun - and two weeks to get attacked by the Romney machine.
Politico's Maggie Haberman says that Tuesday was a strong rebuke to Romney, who no longer can argue that the press is overhyping his problems with conservatives. Also, Haberman notes that Newt Gingrich is out of money and momentum. What happens next?
RedState's Leon Wolf says the race is a long way from over.
The Weekly Standard's William Kristol says Tuesday was probably all about RomneyCare and conservatives' concern with it.
Posted by The Observer Editorial Board at 7:04 AM