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GOP division

Posted: February 9, 2012 3:18 p.m.
Updated: February 10, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Democrats and independents who want to see President Obama win another term in office got a boost Tuesday when former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum won Republican primary contests in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, signaling that the GOP's efforts to coalesce behind Mitt Romney are not working, at least for the time being. Santorum will not receive any delegates from any of the three states, as all were non-binding straw polls -- so-called "beauty contests" in political parlance -- but his success indicates that the right wing of the Republican Party isn't warming up to Romney, whose conservative credentials they consider suspect.

The Romney campaign downplayed the contests, saying the former Massachusetts governor hadn't devoted much time or money to campaigning in the three states. That might have been true in Minnesota and in Missouri, but Romney did indeed go at it reasonably hard in Colorado, with dismal results. The Romney campaign had concentrated on Newt Gingrich, not Santorum, as its primary rival among the right wing of the GOP; Gingrich, of course, had won the South Carolina primary, but his star has faded since then.

There's lots of  time left before November, and as we pointed out earlier this week, polls taken months before an election don't carry much weight. But Obama supporters have to take heart in the fact that Romney isn't garnering the loyal support of Republican conservatives. That will have to change if any member of the GOP has a chance of defeating Obama in November.

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