VIDEO: Santorum sweeps with wins in Minnesota, Colorado caucuses, Missouri primary

The Takeaway

Rick Santorum speaks to supporters in St. Charles, Mo., in suburban St. Louis, after winning all three electoral contests Tuesday night. (Photo from AP video.)

It was a very good night for Rick Santorum, the Republican presidential candidate who handily won the caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado and the "beauty contest" primary in Missouri.

It was a rough night for Mitt Romney, the one-time front runner for the Republican nomination, came in a distant third in Minnesota and second in Colorado and Missouri. It was also a tough night for Newt Gingrich, who wasn't even on the ballot in Missouri, came in last in Minnesota and third in Colorado.

With Gingrich's dismal finish, it helps Santorum make the case that he, actually, is the credible conservative alternative to Romney — not Gingrich.

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Also potentially troubling to Romney, as pointed out by Nate Silver of The New York Times, is where Romney won votes. Romney won most of his support in areas typically won by Democrats — wealthy, urban areas. In Colorado, for example, Romney won in and around Denver, while Santorum picked up the more rural areas that Republicans typically need for victory. Plus, the three primaries or caucuses Romney has won thus far are all states the President Obama won in 2008.

But Romney does still maintain the top delegate count, perhaps reflecting the winner-take-all states he's won, and the proportionate or uncommitted delegate states his opponents have taken.

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