Santorum rocks Romney with Minn., Mo., Colo. victories

A resurgent Rick Santorum won Republican presidential caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado on Tuesday night, a stunning sweep that raised fresh questions about front-runner Mitt Romney’s appeal among the ardent conservatives at the core of the party’s political base.

Santorum triumphed, as well, in a nonbinding Missouri primary that was worth bragging rights but no national convention delegates.

“Conservatism is alive and well in Missouri and Minnesota,” the jubilant former Pennsylvania senator told cheering supporters in St. Charles, Mo. Challenging both his GOP rival and the Democratic president, he declared that on issues ranging from health care to “Wall Street bailouts, Mitt Romney has the same positions as Barack Obama.”

Returns from 83 percent of Minnesota’s precincts showed Santorum with 45 percent support, Texas Rep. Ron Paul with 27 percent and Romney — who won the state in his first try for the nomination four years ago — with 17 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trailed with 11 percent.

It was closer in Colorado, where returns from all the precincts showed Santorum with 40 percent of the vote to 35 for Romney. Gingrich had 13, and Paul claimed 12 percent.

Romney showed no sign of disappointment in remarks to supporters.

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