Rick Santorum's stunning sweep of Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri yesterday has thrown another plot twist into the Republican nominating contest. Here's what you need to know:
- Santorum may finally get the bounce that largely eluded him after Iowa, helping him raise money and pique voter interest, the New York Times predicts. His first order of business is staying ahead of Newt Gingrich. After Nevada, he said Gingrich had "had his chance" to beat Romney.
- While the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses were non-binding, if delegates do honor them Santorum picks up 28 convention votes, vaulting him into second place with 45 delegates by the AP's count. Gingrich has 32, while Romney boasts 107.
- Missouri awarded no delegates, but wasn't meaningless after all, the Washington Post observes. With Gingrich off the ballot, Santorum proved he could beat Romney in a head-to-head race. Of course, Romney didn't exactly break a sweat in the state, but his 30-point loss looks really ugly.
- This is "not a near-death experience for Romney," who is still the most likely nominee, writes Maggie Haberman at Politico. But it makes it really hard to argue that his problems with conservatives are being overhyped, and puts a serious dent in his aura of inevitability.
- William Kristol of the Weekly Standard is convinced Romney lost because of Santorum's assault on Romneycare. Another possible explanation: Romney's super PAC didn't blanket any of these states with ads.
- Gingrich emerges looking irrelevant, having won one state to Santorum's four. He's low on cash, and sources tell Politico that Sheldon Adelson isn't planning on another super PAC deposit ... perhaps because Adelson is weighing jumping ship.
- Voter turnout was down in all three states—a sign that Republicans aren't terribly excited to vote for any of these candidates. (Maybe they'd prefer the Sweet Meteor of Death.)
Click to read Buzzfeed's top 10 GOP tweets
in response to Santorum's sweep.