The Santorum Sweep Reveals Deep Divisions within the Republican Party

Mitt Romney was poised to lock up the nomination going into Tuesday’s elections. Staking his political future in the hands of delegate-rich Colorado Romney essentially ignored Missouri’s zero delegates and conceded that Minnesota’s conservative base would likely vote for Rick Santorum, even though Romney won a decisive victory there in 2008 with 41% of the vote.

The Santorum Sweep changes everything.

Romney is reeling from the losses while Santorum is scrambling to find support and funding to compete with his well-funded and better organized rival. According to year-end filings Santorum raised $2.2 million in 2011 while Romney raised $56.8 million.

“I don’t think the conservative base changes its mind day to day,” Romney told reporters, dismissing rumors that party’s conservative base is rejecting his candidacy. “The places where I campaigned actively, we got actually in some respects record support from the conservative base.”

In a meeting in McKinney, Texas Santorum told a crowd of around 600 “Nobody ever thinks I can win anything,” and that “The gift of being underestimated is a great gift.”

The main backer of Santorum’s Super PAC “Red White and Blue,” Foster Fries said on Wednesday “I think as a result of last night there seems to be a nice flow of money, suddenly people realize that he’s got a shot.”

Keith Appell, a Republican strategist, believes that Santorum’s consistency on the issues is resonating with many voters. “In a time when there is much cynicism about the authenticity of candidates, he has that box checked.”

This is being viewed by many as a major upset. It reflects the deep divisions that have fractured the Republican Party, weakening the chances that any candidate will be able to defeat President Obama in the fall election.

A recent GOP poll done by Republican polling firm Wenzel Strategies for World Net Daily found that at least 20% of GOP voters are leaning towards voting for President Obama. Only Ron Paul fared better by losing 19% of prospective GOP voters. The poll found that 54% of GOP voters, 52% of Moderate voters, and 60% of Independent voters surveyed believed that Obama had exceeded or lived up to their expectations. Here is how the candidates fared in the head to head match:

Ron Paul:  40%           Obama: 44%

Romney:   41%           Obama: 48%

Santorum: 34%           Obama: 49%

Newt Gingrich: 36%   Obama: 50%

The next major Republican Primaries are in Arizona and Michigan on February 28. Maine wraps up its caucuses this Saturday.

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