Today's primary contests include Missouri's "beauty contest" primary, the Minnesota caucuses, and the Colorado caucuses. Polling firm PPP says all three contests look good for Rick Santorum.
PPP says the former senator from Pennsylvania will "probable win" the Missouri primary. Santorum polls 45 percent in the Show Me State, compared with 32 percent for Mitt Romney and 19 percent for Ron Paul. (Newt Gingrich is not on the ballot there.) In Minnesota, Santorum has a smaller but significant lead, pulling 33 percent support among potential caucus attendees to Romney's 24 percent and Gingrich's 22 percent. PPP also sees a strong second place finish for Santorum in Colorado, behind Romney. Thirty-seven percent of Colorado Republican voters support Romney, with 27 percent supporting Santorum. (Read the full results of the polls here.)
The Romney campaign is already lowering expectations for today. Press secretary Andrea Saul emailed reporters a memo from political director Rich Beeson titled "The Road Ahead -- A Reality Check." The memo points out that no delegates will be won from today's contests and that the upcoming schedule does not bode well for Romney's challengers. "The remaining February states may not be kind to them, and their hopes for a comeback in March may be very difficult and based on an incomplete understanding of the delegate selection rules," the memo states. "Even 'success' in a few states will not mean collecting enough delegates to win the nomination."
Despite the Romney campaign's assurances, the New York Times's Michael Shear notes there may be good reason to believe Santorum will continue to be a threat to Romney after today's contests:
Mr. Santorum’s razor-thin victory in Iowa’s caucuses in early January was the first and last time his campaign has posed a serious challenge to Mr. Romney.
But that could change as the campaign moves to the Midwest and the Rust Belt, where Mr. Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, might find more strength and where polls suggest that Mr. Romney might have trouble connecting with voters.
Campaigning in Minnesota on Monday, Mr. Santorum once again attacked the health care program that Mr. Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, helped push through the Legislature.
“Governor Romney is absolutely incapable of making the case against Obamacare successfully, and therefore greatly damages our ability to win this election, this very critical election, in 2012,” Mr. Santorum said, according to a report at Talking Points Memo.