The Republican presidential contest is a two-man race no more.
Rick Santorum proved that the 2012 primary election still has a few surprises left, after he went three for three in Tuesday’s contests and once again shook up the GOP nomination battle.
Santorum, in perhaps the biggest upset of the night, was declared the winner of the Colorado caucuses -- a contest Mitt Romney had been leading in recent polls and won in the 2008 race. The former Pennsylvania senator also won the Minnesota caucuses and the non-binding Missouri GOP primary.
The candidates head next into Maine, and later in the month to Arizona and Michigan. Santorum’s performance stokes questions about Romney’s appeal in some corners of the Republican Party but also puts the pressure on Newt Gingrich – as he challenges Santorum’s claim to be the “conservative” alternative to Romney.
Santorum, though, said Tuesday night in Missouri that he wasn’t looking to be the alternative to Romney.
"I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama,” Santorum said.
The three-for-three finish marked the best night of Santorum's campaign since Iowa, in which he was belatedly declared the winner.
Santorum said at his victory rally in Missouri that the night's results showed conservatism is "alive and well."
Santorum used the victories to build his case that the Republicans need a nominee who can demonstrate "sharp contrasts" with President Obama -- something he claims the other candidates cannot do.
Santorum went after Romney, accusing him of holding the "same positions" as the president on several issues, but largely glossed over the other GOP candidates in his remarks.