Romney’s Excuse

Mike Allen reports on the message coming out of the Romney campaign after his three losses – and one third place showing in Minnesota, behind Ron Paul – last night:

“It’s about delegates. We could have made the decision to spend money, resources [in Colo. and Minn.], but we had to be pretty tough-minded about it — just to be focused on the delegates, and on Super Tuesday [March 6]. We could have run television, run radio, or spent more time. You can’t do everything. You gotta run your race. We’ll wake up tomorrow, focused on winning Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Super Tuesday. Hats off to Santorum: It’s a really good night for Santorum. It’s a really BAD night for Newt.”

If Mitt Romney had won all three states last night, pundits would probably be dismissing them as largely inconsequential. But Rick Santorum’s three-state sweep creates a comeback narrative, giving the contests (even the entirely symbolic one in Missouri) a lot more weight. While he still trails Romney in the delegate count, Santorum now leads him in number of states won – a remarkable accomplishment that literally changes the dynamic of the race overnight.

The Romney campaign is right about one thing: Santorum devoted much more time than Romney did to campaigning in Colorado and Minnesota. But Romney didn’t exactly ignore the states either. He spent time there, and his Super PAC ran TV ads. As frontrunner, he had an advantage, especially in Minnesota where Tim Pawlenty campaigned for him, and in Colorado, which he won in the last GOP primary. His loss in the states raises the old concern – yet again – about whether he has what it takes to seal the deal with GOP voters.