Santorum: I won and raised about $250K Tuesday night

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WASHINGTON — Resurgent Rick Santorum said his sweep of three GOP contests earned his shoestring campaign $250,000 overnight, cash he needs to take his upstart bid for the Republican presidential nomination to Mitt Romney’s turf.

Santorum’s stunning victories Tuesday in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado marked his best performance thus far in the rollicking contest for the Republican presidential nomination — and Romney’s worst. The better-funded and organized former Massachusetts governor shrugged off his poor showing, but his losses were stinging reminders of a stubborn weakness: Romney’s inability to appeal to the conservatives at the base of the party.

It was far from clear, though, that Santorum would be able to turn his momentum into the millions of dollars he would need to overtake Romney. But in the hours after his victory, Santorum said he’s finally being heard and supported by conservatives who want a clear contrast to President Barack Obama.

“I think last night we raised a quarter of a million dollars online,” Santorum told CNN’s “Starting Point” the morning after. “We are going to have the money we need to make the case we want to make.”

And to take the fight to Romney’s virtual home states. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Santorum said he’d debate Romney in Arizona, the home of a sizable Mormon population and a key patron, Sen. John McCain, the GOP presidential candidate in 2008. Also on Santorum’s travel schedule: Michigan, where Romney’s father was governor.

The developments shifted the Republican political narrative just as Romney had aggressively courted conservatives and they had begun to embrace him in the first step toward what many Republicans hoped would be a swift end to the nomination fight.

Instead, Santorum thrived and relegated House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another contender for the conservative vote, to the rear of the results Tuesday with Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Gingrich mostly skipped the three-state race, focusing instead on Ohio and its vote on Super Tuesday, March 6.

A subdued Romney congratulated Santorum and said he’d press on.

“This was a good night for Rick Santorum,” Romney told supporters in Denver on Tuesday. He offered a bit of forced optimism: “We’ll keep on campaigning down the road, but I expect to become our nominee with your help.”

Romney added, “When this primary season is over, we’re going to stand united as a party behind our nominee to defeat Barack Obama.”

Santorum cast the results as a victory for a purer form of conservatism than Romney has offered, heard more clearly by voters across the nation’s midsection without a deafening TV air war that Romney has dominated.

Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, said in a nationally broadcast interview Wednesday that he thinks conservative Republicans “are beginning to get” that he represents the party’s best chance to oust Obama.

He also ripped into Romney’s compromises on health care, economic bailouts and cap and trade and mocking Romney’s attempt to be seen as the political outsider in 2012.

Gov. Romney, Mr. Outsider, was for government takeover in health care, was for government takeover of the private sector of the Wall street bailout and was for the government takeover of industry and energy with the cap and trade,” Santorum said on CNN. “So Mr. Private Sector was Mr. Big Government when he was out there running for the private sector.”

In the glow of victory, he looked past Romney to the general election. As the Republicans fight, Obama watches from his perch in the White House — and waits.

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