Now that Rick Santorum has had his sort of day in the sun, it’s instructive to take a step back and reconsider what Tuesday’s elections in CO, MN and MO mean for Romney. John Nichols’ post, “Anybody But Romney Wins Everywhere” in The Nation puts it all into perspective:
…The sweater vest had a good night. But the big deal is that Republicans rejected the empty suit…Rick Santorum may have won beauty contests Tuesday in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, but he won’t even be on the ballot for delegate-rich contests in states such as Indiana and Virginia. He’s still running for vice president, or maybe a cabinet post.
Santorum is a story. But he is not the story.
The story is the fact that Mitt Romney lost so very miserably in three battleground states.
Romney finished second in Colorado and Missouri and, remarkably, barely mustered a third-place finish (behind Santorum and Ron Paul, barely ahead of Newt Gingrich) in Minnesota.
But the place on the list is less telling than than overwhelming levels of opposition to Romney.
In Colorado, 65 percent of Republican caucus-goers voted against the man who started the week as the all-but-declared nominee of their party.
In Missouri, 75 percent of Republican primary voters backed someone other than Romney.
In Minnesota, 83 percent of Republican caucus-goers rejected Romney. That’s particularly striking, as Romney won Minnesota in 2008 with 41 percent of the vote.
In many Minnesota counties, Romney finished fourth, behind Santorum, Paul and Gingrich. Some of the former Massachusetts governor’s worst losses were in [blue] collar counties around the Twin Cities, an essential base for Republican presidential contenders in the fall.
Several Minnesota counties recorded less than 5 percent support for Romney. In western Minnesota’s Norman County (Red River Valley), no one caucused for him. Mitt got 0 percent.
His finishes in the Republican heartlands of rural Missouri and Colorado were almost as bad.
Even more unsettling for the Republicans has to be the fact that, despite intensive campaigning in the three states, turnout collapsed.
In Missouri, a classic bellweather state, there was a stunning drop in primary participation. In 2008, GOP primary turnout was 589,289. In 2012 ,GOP primary turnout was 251,496. That’s way less than half the turnout just four years ago.
In Minnesota, caucus turnout four years ago was 62,828. This year, it will be under 50,000. That’s an almost 20 percent dropoff.
In Colorado, 70,229 Republicans caucused in 2008. This year, turnout was 64,000. That’s close to a 10 percent dropoff.
Fun to imagine GOP strategists mulling over these statistics id disbelief, mumbling WTF. Nichols concludes with a sweet kicker. “In Missouri’s Republican primary on Tuesday, where all the attention and campaigning was focused, Romney secured 63,826 votes…Running essentially unopposed in the extraordinarily low-profile Missouri Democratic primary, Obama won 64,405.”