Santorum shakes up US Republican race

Former senator revives presidential campaign with victories in Republican contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

    Santorum was largely written off just a few weeks ago, but Tuesday's wins give his campaign new hope [Al Jazeera]

    US Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has revived his bid for the White House by sweeping to victory in all three of the latest nominating contests in the states of Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

    Santorum, who was largely written off a few weeks ago, won his party's caucuses in the northern battleground states of Minnesota and Colorado, after picking up another win in a non-binding primary vote in the central state of Missouri.

    Speaking at a campaign rally in Missouri as the results trickled in late on Tuesday local time, Santorum, a Christian conservative and former Pennsylvania senator, said his victories were triumphs for conservatism and the Tea Party movement.

    With nearly all of the precincts reporting in Missouri, Santorum won 55 per cent of the vote, more than double that of frontrunner Mitt Romney's 25 per cent.

    Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, considered Romney's main challenger, was not on the ballot in Missouri, allowing Santorum the chance to consolidate conservative voters.

    In Minnesota, Santorum won nearly 45 per cent of the vote, easily defeating Texas congressman Ron Paul at 27 per cent. Romney came in a distant third at 17 per cent, with 93 per cent of precincts reporting.

    The biggest shock of the night was in Colorado, where Santorum won 40 per cent of the vote, edging out Romney on 35 per cent, according to official party results.

    "Wow. Conservatism is alive and well in Missouri and Minnesota," Santorum told supporters in St Charles, Missouri, after results came in from those two states.

    "I don't stand here to claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, I stand here to be the conservative alternative to [US President] Barack Obama," he said to cheers from the crowd.

    'Beauty contest' vote

    The tallies marked the first time so far in the 2012 Republican race that Romney has failed to finish in first or second place in a state contest.

    They also marked a chance for Santorum to reignite a campaign which scored an early surprise when he won the Iowa caucuses on January 3 but had failed to pick up a victory since.

    The Missouri primary is considered a "beauty contest" because the candidates do not win delegates who will take part
    in the August Republican convention where the party's presidential nominee will officially be chosen.

    Missouri Republicans will select convention delegates in caucuses on March 17 in the state's two-step process.  However, the primary is still considered a noteworthy test of strength among the candidates.

    Even before the votes, Romney's campaign tried to downplay the anticipated loss, with a statement noting "unlike the other candidates, our campaign has the resources and organisation to keep winning over the long run".

    Romney had concentrated his energies on Colorado and had been predicted to win that contest.

    The campaign to challenge Barack Obama in November's presidential election now moves to Arizona and Michigan, which hold Republican primaries on February 28.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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