When you think about it, there’s really only three candidates in the race: Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and not-Romney.
Santorum pulled a string of wins in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado Tuesday evening, but it may as well have been Gingrich. The point is someone other than Romney (or Paul, for that matter) won.
Now this means two things. First – a problem for Romney. Second – a problem for not-Romney.
Here’s Romney’s problem: his favorability is capsizing and his unfavorability is shooting through the roof.
The problem for not-Romney is that not-Romney is not one, but rather two candidates neither of whom appears ready to drop out of the race. If not-Romney were just Newt Gingrich or just Rick Santorum, not-Romney could start raising serious money to push back against Romney’s very deep treasure trove.
But all that Santorum’s three wins did was make the Gingrich/Santorum division more pronounced. And that’s a win for Romney and a loss for not-Romney.
It’s also a win for Obama. For that matter, virtually every moment in the GOP primary has been a win for Obama. As the GOP fractures, the chances of Obama beating the eventual nominee grows.
It doesn’t help that the economy seems to be slowly dragging itself back to life – here and in Europe. The culture wars are great for the primary for GOP voters, but not so great for the general election.