Santorum slows Romney nomination express

About 22,000 Minnesota Republicans helped Rick Santorum slow down what many had seen as a Mitt Romney domination of the Republican presidential race.

With nearly all of Minnesota’s 4,137 precincts reporting, that is how many votes the former Pennsylvania U.S. senator received in Tuesday’s caucuses.

He also won caucuses in Colorado, upsetting favored Romney, and a Missouri primary election. None of the wins brought Santorum any delegates because the contests were non-binding, but national political commentators Wednesday proclaimed that they at least proved that Romney will not walk away with the GOP nomination.

More than 48,000 Republicans attended the Minnesota caucuses, giving Santorum 45 percent support.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who campaigned in Minnesota more than other candidates, finished second with 27 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, who easily won the caucuses four years ago, was a distant third with 17 percent. Ex-U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia rounded out the field with 11 percent.

In his St. Charles, Mo., victory speech, Santorum thanked Tea Party members and other conservatives for giving him a Tuesday sweep. He had not won since Iowa’s caucuses opened the caucus and precinct season a month ago.

He had a message for Democratic President Barack Obama: “You had better start listening.”

In Denver, Romney delivered a more subdued speech even before knowing he would lose the Colorado caucuses.

Still, the national front-runner had a message of his own: “I expect to become the nominee.”

Santorum won most Minnesota counties, according to unofficial but nearly complete returns. Paul won in Koochiching, Red Lake, Benton and Blue Earth counties. Santorum and Paul tied in Lincoln County.

In Missouri, all counties went for Santorum. Colorado Republicans in most of the state picked Santorum, although those in the northwest and the Denver area opted for Romney, who had expected to win the western state.

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