Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: 'Is Rick Santorum Ready To Play Ball?'

The key takeaway from Santorum’s convincing hat trick on Tuesday night is not that the former Pennsylvania Senator is a viable contender for the Republican presidential nomination (at least not at this juncture), but that his strong victories exposed glaring deficiencies in Team Romney’s campaign strategy.

Instead of just touting business experience and going negative on his opponents, Team Romney needs to go back to the drawing board and give conservatives a better reason to pull the lever for him. If not, the bloodshed could continue for sometime.

Romney is still the odd-on-favorite to win the GOP nomination, but the clock is ticking. And if Romney is incapable of developing a passionate yet positive narrative for conservatives, his chances of defeating President Obama in the general could be damaged as well.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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Rick Santorum Wins GOP Contests In Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado But All Eyes On Mitt Romney

Rick Santorum may have swept Tuesday's GOP nominating contests in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado, but on Wednesday all eyes were on Mitt Romney.

Political analysts say Santorum's wins says more about the ex-Massachusetts governor and solidifies the notion that voters are unsettled about Romney and that he's not the inevitable Republican presidential nominee.

"Mitt Romney wanted to roll into Super Tuesday as the presumptive nominee," GOP strategist Ford O'Connell told the Daily News. "That's not going to happen now... This really throws a wrench in the plan."

So what's next for the GOP hopefuls? There's big races in Arizona and Michigan on Feb. 28. And of course there's Super Tuesday on March 6.

Until then, analysts think Romney has a lot to do if he wants to seal the nomination.

“Romney hasn't told us why we should vote for him other than the economy," said O'Connell.

Read more from Aliyah Shahid at New York Daily News

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Republican Presidential Nomination Battle Could Be A Prolonged Slog

Solid analysis on the battle for the Republican presidential nomination, courtesy of the The New York Times' Nate Silver:

Whatever your perspective on how likely Mitt Romney was to lose the Republican nomination race prior to Tuesday evening, it should be acknowledged that he had about the worst results conceivable.

What’s more, the victor in all three states was Mr. Santorum, who is probably much more dangerous to Mr. Romney than Newt Gingrich. Mr. Gingrich had an awful evening, finishing a distant third in Colorado and last in Minnesota. But that may only work against Mr. Romney in the end.

Mr. Romney clearly has a lot of advantages in the nomination race, and Mr. Santorum will need to scale his campaign up to the national level, something he had failed to do successfully after Iowa.

[T]his race bears more resemblance to something like the 1984 Democratic contest or the 1976 Republican race. There was a favorite in each of those contests — Walter Mondale in 1984 and Gerald Ford in 1976 — and they were ahead in the delegate count more or less from start to finish.

But both contests progressed through all 50 states and were not that far from going to the convention. A few more missteps for Mr. Mondale or Mr. Ford, and the outcome might have been different.

The most generous interpretation of Tuesday night’s results is that Mr. Romney’s campaign failed to make much of an effort in the contests.

Fortunately for Mr. Romney, none of his rivals are in the same ballpark as Mrs. Clinton’s opponent, Barack Obama, as measured by metrics like fundraising, organizational strength, or oratorical skill. But Mr. Romney is not a strong enough candidate that he can afford more nights as bad as Tuesday.

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Santorum Claims Momentum With Wins In Three States

Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum claimed a surge of momentum and fundraising on Wednesday, a day after his shocking sweep of nominating contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri that dealt a blow to front-runner Mitt Romney.

Even though Romney holds strong advantages in financing and organization, his campaign will have to refocus to fight the challenge from Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania known for his socially conservative views.

"We definitely are the campaign with the momentum, the enthusiasm on the ground," Santorum said on CNN.

For Romney, Tuesday's results included losses in two states - Colorado and Minnesota - that he won in his unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign. Minnesota also became the first state where Romney did not end up in first or second place.

The startling results raised fresh doubts about whether Romney, a wealthy former private equity executive and former Massachusetts governor, can extend his support from the party establishment to win over a broad swath of Republican voters.

"Team Romney might need to tweak its strategy. So far they've been successful in going negative on their opponents and touting his business experience," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said. "But obviously Republican primary voters are hungry for something more. A lot of folks see him as a single-issue candidate right now."

Read more from Steve Holland At Reuters 

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Analysis: Romney Still Struggles To Seal The Deal

Mitt Romney's march to a possible Republican presidential nomination just got a lot longer and harder.

Front-runner Romney left Tuesday's round of three nominating contests with another reminder of his own shortcomings, after a two-state winning streak that had placed him firmly in the driver's seat in the nomination race.

Bad losses to rival Rick Santorum in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota raised more questions about whether conservative Republicans are ready to give their hearts to a millionaire former Massachusetts governor who once supported abortion rights and a government requirement that people have health insurance.

Romney may still be the front-runner in the race to pick the Republican candidate to challenge President Barack Obama in the November 6 U.S. election. But nothing is coming easily for him in this most volatile of Republican nominating races.

The next big showdowns will be in Michigan and Arizona on February 28. Romney grew up in Michigan, where his father was a former governor and car executive, and Arizona could be another high-stakes showdown similar to Florida.

"He wanted to run through February and roll into Super Tuesday as the presumptive nominee, and that's just not going to happen now," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said. "This is a wake-up call for Romney, but it's not the end-all."

Super Tuesday is March 6, with contests in 10 states.

"Team Romney might need to tweak its strategy. So far they've been successful in going negative on their opponents and touting his business experience," O'Connell said.

"But obviously Republican primary voters are hungry for something more. A lot of folks see him as a single-issue candidate right now," he said.

Read more from John Whitesides at Reuters

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Santorum Gets Boost With Wins In Missouri and Minnesota

Rick Santorum won Minnesota and Missouri's nominating contests Tuesday night, giving him badly needed momentum heading into a three-week lull in voting.

While votes are still rolling in, Santorum held wide leads in both states over Mitt Romney, who was in third place behind Ron Paul in Minnesota. Colorado’s caucus results are just starting to trickle in.

Speaking to supporters in Missouri, Santorum targeted President Obama. "I don't stand here to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama," he said to cheers and screams from the crowd.

Santorum has won all three Midwestern states that have voted and will likely use those victories to sell himself as a more viable conservative alternative than Newt Gingrich.

“Santorum is now closer to assuming the anti-Romney mantle,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, who is unaffiliated in the race. “This is a good start but the next two weeks are going to be extremely critical for him.”

Read more from Cameron Joseph at The Hill

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Romney Turns Fire Onto Santorum

Mitt Romney redirected his campaign fire at Rick Santorum on Monday, in a sign he sees the former senator as a threat to his front-runner status.

Santorum is poised to do well in two out of the three GOP nominating contests on Tuesday. He has a narrow lead in the latest Minnesota poll and a solid chance of winning Missouri, where Newt Gingrich isn’t on the ballot and where Santorum has been campaigning more vigorously than any of his rivals.

The contests in those two states, along with Colorado, aren’t binding as to delegates awarded, but will still determine the momentum heading into the two-week lull before the next primaries take place at the end of February.

Romney has made Gingrich the focus of his ire in the three weeks since Gingrich thrashed the former Massachusetts governor in South Carolina. But after solidly defeating the former Speaker in Florida and Nevada and watching his volatile campaign flounder, Romney seems to no longer regard Gingrich as his most formidable foe.

“Santorum’s key is tomorrow, that’s really his big day,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, who is unaligned in the race. “If Santorum can win in Missouri and Minnesota, that’ll expose Romney as being weak in the Midwest, and hurt him heading into Super Tuesday.”

Read more from Josh Lederman and Cameron Joseph at Texas Insider

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Romney Playing Expectations Game For Tuesday Votes

Mitt Romney's campaign sought again to minimize the importance of elections in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado on Tuesday, the same day polls show Romney trailing in Missouri and Minnesota.

The campaign sent out a memo from political director Rich Beeson pointing out that Missouri's primary is a "beauty contest" that doesn't have any delegates tied to it, and the other two states are non-binding on delegates.

If Santorum can win both states he could make Romney look weak in the Midwest. That would make it three of three contests in Midwestern states where he beat Romney. 

"If Santorum can win in Missouri and Minnesota, that'll expose Romney in the Midwest and hurt him heading into Super Tuesday," said GOP strategist Ford O'Connell, who is unaligned in the primary. "It could slow Romney down."

Read more from Cameron Joseph at The Hill

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Will Rick Santorum Rise Again On Tuesday?

From The Washington Examiner's Byron York:

On Monday morning, the eve of caucuses and primaries in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, the Romney campaign sent out notice it would hold a conference call to discuss rival Rick Santorum's "long history of pork-barrel spending." The call would feature former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty explaining why Santorum "is simply not ready to be president."

There isn't much polling for the three states holding contests on Tuesday, but one survey in Minnesota put Santorum slightly ahead of Romney, who is coming off wins in Florida and Nevada. It's no surprise the Romney campaign directed its guns at Santorum.

Good showings on Tuesday, Santorum aides believe, will allow Santorum to use the coming three weeks without a Republican primary or caucus -- Feb. 7 to 28 -- to beef up his campaign and finally emerge as the one-on-one rival to Romney.

Back in Iowa, voters turned to Santorum after first exhausting other possibilities; when they looked around, they realized he had been there all along. Recently he's been plugging along in the expectation that Gingrich will self-destruct, and then a Santorum moment will come again.

But it's entirely possible that neither Santorum nor Gingrich will pull ahead in the race to challenge Romney. If that happens, Romney will be home free, grateful that his considerable Republican opposition was never able to unite behind a single challenger.

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Virginia Senate Passes Voter ID Bill

Contrary to the mainstream media's contention: voter fraud exists in the U.S, and it is a serious problem.

Given that Virginia will be a key battleground state in 2012, this is certainly good news and a positive step forward in protecting democracy at the ballot box. The AP's Bob Lewis has more:

Legislation forcing voters to bring identification to Virginia polling places on Election Day won Senate passage Monday after Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling broke a 20-20 partisan deadlock.

The next stop for the bill is the House of Delegates, where Republican conservatives control two-thirds of the seats and have already passed similar legislation on largely party line votes.

The legislation means voters who fail to bring identification will receive a provisional ballot that will be vetted after the election and counted if the voter supplies corroborating identification.

Among the identification that poll workers could accept under Martin's bill would be a Virginia voter registration card or driver's license, a Social Security card, other state, federal or locally issued ID, including those of Virginia colleges and universities, employee photo ID issued by the voter's employer or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check or paycheck displaying the voter's name and address.

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