Ouch!

02.07.12

Paul Begala: Santorum Spanks Romney in Midwestern Primaries

It was a stunning repudiation of the ostensible frontrunner. Mitt’s super PAC outspent Santorum’s 40 to 1—only to come in third place in Minnesota?

Mitt Romney didn’t just lose. He lost to Muhammad, Jugdish, Sidney, and Clayton—the archetypal losers from Animal House.

The story of Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado is the stunning weakness of Mitt Romney.

Rick Santorum’s impressive victory in the nonbinding Missouri “beauty contest” began an ugly night for Romney. Mitt, who garnered 29 percent in Missouri in 2008, limped in with 25 percent—fewer than half the votes Santorum earned (55 percent).

Then came Minnesota, where Romney lost again. Big time. He won the state four years ago—earning 41 percent, But Tuesday night, he won only 17 percent, for a stunning third-place finish behind Santorum and Ron Paul.

Finally—and perhaps most embarrassingly of all—is Colorado. Romney romped there in 2008 with 60 percent. This year, he limped in with 35 percent and lost to Santorum’s 40 percent.

Romney has more money, more national experience, more consultants, more staff. Heck, he even has better hair. His super PAC outspent Santorum’s by a 40-to-1 margin. Forty to one. And yet Mitt Romney lost. He lost to a guy who lost his home state by 18 points the last time he was on the ballot there. There’s a technical term in political consulting for a performance like that: it’s called sucking. If Romney can’t beat Rick Santorum, he needs to find another party to run in.

The lesson from Missouri, as Santorum’s talented admaker, John Brabender, told The New York Times’s John Harwood: “in a clean one-on-one with Romney, we beat him.”

Team Romney might say, "Au contraire." They would surely note that Missouri didn’t count. Technically accurate, politically untrue. Romney losing a nonbinding primary to Santorum is like the New York Yankees losing an exhibition game to a church-league softball team.

Minnesota is even harder for Romney to explain. He not only had all the money, he had the support of the former governor (and former GOP presidential candidate) Tim Pawlenty. Which was worth a warm bucket of spit.