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While former Minnesota Gov. Mitt Romney worked to neutralize former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, the other “former” in the race — one time Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum — may be poised to sneak up an grab a victory in at least one of two caucus states on Tuesday.
“Santorum is surging again, at least in Minnesota and Colorado,” GOP strategist Sam Goldstein tells Capitol Hill Blue. “He could pull off a surprise or two.”
Indeed. Polls show a close race between Santorum and Paul in the two states while Gingrich and Texas Congressman Ron Paul fade into the woodwork.
Romney’s campaign sees this and stepped up attacks against Santorum over the weekend. Although the current GOP frontrunner won both Minnesota and Colorado in the 2008 caucuses, campaign spokesman downplayed chances for a sweep of both states this time around.
“Minnesota’s always volatile political mood has taken a sharp turn to the right,” says Goldstein. “This is, after all, the state of Michele Bachmann.”
Santorum is hoping that conservatism will swing votes to him as the “viable alternative” to Romney. He needs a victory — or at least a strong showing — to revive his campaign and boost his fundraising.
“At the moment, we’re broke,” a Santorum aide confides to Capitol Hill Blue. “We need money and a win Tuesday could get some contributors to open their checkbooks.”
Polls show Gingrich fading once again and Paul sliding back into political obscurity.
“Paul’s poor showing in Nevada shows serious cracks in his organization,” says GOP operative Susan Link. “He outspent Gingrich there and came in third with less than 20 percent. ”
Gingrich, battered by an avalanche of negative-ads from Romney’s forces, hopes to just get through February politically alive.
Besides Minnesota and Colorado, Missouri holds a non-binding “beauty contest” primary contest Tuesday.