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Rick Santorum won the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses and a non-binding primary in Missouri on Tuesday night, an unexpected sweep that raised fresh questions about Mitt Romney’s ability to win the Republican presidential nomination.

On the flip side, it may help Romney inadvertently.

With Santorum emerging as competition to Newt Gingrich as the principal alternative to Romney, voters continue to veer among candidates but have not coalesced behind one consistently, often leaving Romney ahead almost by default.

Rick Santorum Pic

Gingrich has won one state, South Carolina. Santorum has now won four, including Iowa. Romney won New Hampshire January 10 and then back-to-back victories in Florida and Nevada that had led to predictions that he was inevitable.

Not so fast.

The results on Tuesday shook the political world, though it is an open question whether they are a momentary embarrassment or a prolonged setback Romney.

Romney goes into the next round of primaries and caucuses much better financed than his opponents in what will be much more of a nationwide campaign.

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Results show Mitt Romney winning the 2012 Nevada caucuses by a sizable margin, giving him his third victory in the race for the GOP presidential nomination.

With 71 percent of precincts reporting, Romney has 47 percent to Newt Gingrich's 23 percent and Ron Paul's 19 percent, with Rick Santorum at 11 percent.

In his victory speech from Las Vegas, Romney made clear that he's looking ahead to the general election, focusing his remarks on President Obama.

"Four years ago candidate Obama came to Nevada promising to help," he said. "Mr. President, Nevada has had enough of your kind of help," he said.

Mitt in NV

"We're not going to settle for a president who tells us it could be worse," he added, trying to downplay recent job gains and the drop in unemployment.

A victory in Nevada leaves Romney primed for what should be a strong month for him: Six more states vote in February, and he won four of them in 2008.

Still, the race is far from over. Not including Nevada's delegates, which will be awarded proportionally, Romney has just 80 of the 1,144 needed at this point.

If someone were to start pulling off some upset wins - not out of the question in this fluid cycle - on or before Super Tuesday (March 6), we could have a race.

The 2012 Nevada caucus results (incomplete):

  1. Mitt Romney: 47% (11,822 votes, 11 delegates)
  2. Newt Gingrich: 23% (5,623, 2 delegates)
  3. Ron Paul: 19% (4,619, 2 delegates)
  4. Rick Santorum: 11% (2,749, 0 delegates)

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Campaigning in Nevada in advance of tomorrow's Republican presidential caucus, Ron Paul talked to CNN's Joe Johns about his prospects in the Silver State and beyond.

Paul said the caucus format works to his advantage because it rewards organization and enthusiasm, rather than strictly money, which gives Mitt Romney a huge edge.

The Texas Congressman, whose financial situation is still better than most, lamented that his resources limited any chance against Romney in a big state like Florida.

How well he'll do in Nevada remains to be seen, but Paul says he will continue his goal of accumulating delegates and that there is "zero chance" of him dropping out.

Watch his cordial interview with the network below:

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Mitt Romney rolled to victory in the Florida primary Tuesday, dispatching Newt Gingrich after his win in South Carolina and reclaiming a dominant position in the GOP race.

The triumph by Romney offered perhaps his first forceful response to the concerns that were raised about his candidacy only 10 days ago ... and throughout the last year.

While there remain plenty of doubters, a 14-point win with no asterisk in the biggest state so far (Romney won all 50 delegates) will resonate more than his past results.

That isn't saying too much, given that he's yet to win a majority in any state (although Florida's delegates were winner-take-all). Nevertheless, he beat Newt convincingly.

W. Mitt Romney

“A competitive primary does not divide us,” Romney told supporters. “It prepares us. And we will win. I stand ready to lead this party and to lead our nation.”

But if the Florida Republican primary results promised to reorder the field, none of Romney's challengers got the memo. Gingrich quickly pledged to fight on.

Gingrich spoke to a crowd in Orlando holding signs reading “46 States to Go,” saying he had a message for those wondering about the future of his 2012 bid.

“We are going to contest every place, and we will win,” said Gingrich, who did not congratulate Romney for his victory, nor did he call him on Tuesday night.

Rick Santorum, who finished third, and Ron Paul, who finished fourth, have also shown no indication that they're dropping out of the race anytime soon.

The next month is relatively light on primaries and caucuses, leading up to the Super Tuesday slate of elections March 6. Nevada and Maine vote Saturday.

The 2012 Florida GOP primary results:

  1. Mitt Romney: 771,842 (46.4%)
  2. Newt Gingrich: 531,294 (31.9%)  
  3. Rick Santorum: 222,248 (13.4%)  
  4. Ron Paul: 116,776 (7.0%)

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Asked at last night's Florida Republican debate if Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich should return money made from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Ron Paul responded:

"That subject really doesn't interest me a whole lot."

The Texas congressman might not be #1 in the polls, but he showed last night that when given a proper forum, he's as substantive as anyone - and funny too.

Asked where he stands on Newt Gingrich's proposal to put a permanent base on the moon by 2020, Paul said, "Well, I don't think we should go to the moon."

"I think we maybe should send some politicians up there."

Paul, who at 76 would be the oldest person ever elected President of the United States also drew cheers in his response to a question about his medical records.

Noting that his records are "about one page, if even that long," Paul challenged his cohorts to "a 25-mile bike ride, any time, any day in the heat of Texas."

But, you know, there are laws against age discrimination, so if you push this too much, you better be careful," he quipped, and he wasn't done by a long shot.

Asked by CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer what he would say if Raul Castro called him in the Oval Office, Paul said, "Well, I'd ask what he called about, you know?"

Which isn't to say Paul's wit was his only asset. He routinely scored points with his strong responses, especially regarding monetary policy and civil liberties.

Florida's primary is Tuesday, January 31.

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Thursday's Republican presidential debate, the 19th in this election cycle, saw Mitt Romney tried to fend off Newt Gingrich, while Ron Paul and Rick Santorum shined.

Romney came out swinging fast and when Gingrich attacked, he hit back. Much more aggressive than in the past, he's going all-in to win Tuesday's Florida primary.

In that respect, he likely succeeded in blunting some of Newt's momentum in Florida, as Gingrich was flatter Thursday than in some of the past debates he's owned.

He had some nice zingers and applause-garnering policy proposals, but not a proverbial "knockout punch" like he delivered en route to winning in South Carolina.

Gingrich received praise for his harsh attack on debate moderator John King last week and tried to double down on his strategy of attacking the host to build support.

It backfired a bit last night. Wolf Blitzer stood his ground when Gingrich would not answer a question about his apparent truce over the issue of Romney's tax return.

He called the question "nonsense" and suggested they talk about "issues that relate to the governing of America," but Wolf - and later Mitt - got the better of him.

Rick Santorum, meanwhile, had probably his strongest debate performance in a year, pointedly criticizing both Gingrich and Romney on a variety of issues.

The fourth candidate running, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, would probably be called the winner of the debate if the mainstream media would take him seriously.

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by Free Britney at . Comments

We counted 21 questions for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich at last night's GOP debate in Florida, with 12 for Rick Santorum, and a mere eight for Ron Paul.

To a point, we get that this is influenced by results and polling ... but on the flip side, aren't results and polling likely to be based on amount of exposure?

Why not give candidates equal free media exposure at the debates?

It's not like these are fringe guys really. Ron Paul has a strong third and second place finish and polls in double digits everywhere; Santorum won Iowa.

Makes no sense. Fortunately, we came across this highlight reel of Paul's answers from the debate in Tampa. Let's hear it for video editing and YouTube!

by Free Britney at . Comments

Florida played host to the latest Republican presidential debate Monday night, and Mitt Romney came out swinging against newly-anointed co-frontrunner Newt Gingrich.

After Gingrich routed him in South Carolina, Romney was forced to change course from his usual try-not-to-lose strategy of appearing competent, inoffensive and vanilla.

Mitt apparently got the memo that in order to stop Florida (which holds its primary January 31) from becoming South Carolina redux, he actually has to show some fight.

As such, he blasted  as an influence peddler and disgraced politician in the debate, which marked the GOP race's most heated and personal exchanges to date.

Gingrich, the grand master of the 18 debates to date, and who pulled off a stunning upset in S.C. in large part due to some debate highlights, was, for once, thrown off.

The most shocking moment of last night may have been when Newt said nothing at all, briefly falling into a frustrated silence at one point amid Romney's barrage.

The night epitomized the direction of the race. It's the insurgents vs. the establishment, with Newt hoping to mobilize the former and Mitt looking to swat him down.

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by Free Britney at . Comments

John King did not have a good night Thursday.

At last night's CNN debate in Charleston, S.C., the network's moderator was absolutely eviscerated by Newt Gingrich after King brought up his ex-wife's recent interview in undoubtedly the event's most memorable exchange.

Not only that, he seemed to skip over Ron Paul - a doctor by trade - more than once, most notably during an exchange about the candidates abortion positions:

Following a back-and-forth between Republican presidential candidates Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, King changed the topic, only to be booed by the crowd.

Because he had completely ignored the fourth candidate on stage, Paul.

Paul laughed off the oversight, noting “John, once again, it’s a medical subject and I’m a doctor!” Paul, an obstetrician, went on to weigh in on the subject.

The Texas Congressman voiced concerns about federal funding of institutions providing abortions, saying such decisions should be made on a state-by-state basis.

South Carolina's crucial primary takes place tomorrow.

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Another Republican debate has come and gone, and as usual there was no shortage of fireworks as Newt Gingrich clashed with his rivals ... and CNN's John King.

Amid reports that Newt asked Marianne Gingrich for an open marriage while cheating on her with Callista Bisek in 1999, King led off the GOP debate with that topic.

Newt was not happy, and he let King know it ...

Reaming out the “destructive, vicious, negative” media rather than his ex-wife, who raised these accusations yesterday, Gingrich said he was appalled by CNN.

Newt, who went on to divorce Marianne and marry Callista in 2000 (they are still married), punctuated his lengthy answer by saying, “The story is false.”

Some other highlights of the second South Carolina debate this week, and the last before Saturday's critical primary in the Palmetto State included:

  • Rick Santorum saying Barack Obama stands for “economic squalor”
  • Mitt Romney saying "maybe" he'll release his tax returns sometime
  • Santorum repeatedly criticizing Newt's grandiosity and stability
  • Gingrich and Santorum claiming Romney is not really pro-life
  • Ron Paul fans yelling for their man to get more screen time

With time running out for all candidates not named Mitt Romney to post a win and halt his march toward the Republican nomination, the tension was high.

Can any of them do it? We'll find out by tomorrow night. We've posted the entire GOP debate, and invite you to share your feedback with us, after the jump:

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Ron Paul Biography

Ron Paul Photo Dr. Ron Paul is an obstetrician, author, United States Congressman, and a candidate for the 2012 Republican Party presidential... More »
Born
Birthplace
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Full Name
Ronald Ernest Paul
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