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Morning Examiner: Romney without the money

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll

Mitt Romney may not have lost any delegates in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri yesterday, but the breadth of his defeats raises serious questions about his viability as a general election candidate.

Yes, Romney spent no money on television ads in any of the states. Yes, Romney ignored Minnesota and Missouri completely, campaigning only lightly in Colorado. And yes, the vaunted Romney organization did not try to get voters to the polls in these states the same way they did for state contests that actually matter. But the results speak for themselves: the hard core conservative voters that did turn out to the polls don’t like Romney.

In Missouri, Romney lost by 30 points and did not win a single county. In Minnesota, Romney finished third behind Ron Paul and did not win a single county. And in Colorado Romney kept his loss within five points, but finished 35-points behind his 60 percent 2008 total.

When the Romney campaign does compete, when money is invested in television ads and a get-out-the-vote operation, Romney usually wins. But without these institutional advantages, Romney is just a much weaker candidate. And he will not have these advantageous in the general election. The desire for a new candidate from a brokered convention just went up.

Pseudo Tuesday
The Washington Examiner‘s Byron York: “As he did in Iowa, Santorum won by being the last plausible alternative for conservatives. For months, the anti-Romney crowd has flirted with one alternative after another. During that time, Santorum plugged along, confident, or at least hopeful, that his old-fashioned campaigning would pay off in the end.”

The Washington Examiner‘s David Freddoso: “‘This was a gut punch. Nobody saw it coming.’ That’s how former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer described tonight’s action on CNN — a three-state sweep by Rick Santorum that just came out of the blue.”

The Washington Examiner‘s Michael Barone: “A very bad night for Newt Gingrich, who couldn’t manage to get on the ballot in Missouri, finished fourth in the conservative-heavy caucuses in Minnesota and just barely edged Ron Paul out of third place in Colorado 13%-12%. He’ll presumably be in the Arizona debate February 22, but will he get much coverage other than that?”

The Washington Examiner‘s Phil Klein: “The fact that Romney lost three states just when he should be benefiting from a “rally around the likely nominee” effect, and that turnout has been consistently low, points to a lack of enthusiasm for Romney that could haunt him in the general election even if he wins the nomination.”

The Corner‘s Henry Olsen: “Romney’s shellacking as of 11 p.m. EST is so great he is not leading in a single county in any state. … What does this mean? It means the GOP base really does not want Romney, at least yet.”

The Corner‘s John Fund: “If Romney indeed loses all three states tonight, it will be in large part because he has failed to close the deal with conservatives, who dominate the Republican party more than they did in 2008.”

The Corner‘s Robert Costa: “To run against a storyteller, such as the writer in the White House, you need a story to tell. Mitt Romney has one. But he’s hesitant to tell it. The most compelling part of his past — his family’s dogged journey — is rarely discussed. … Romney had a horrible evening, stumbling in Minnesota and Missouri. But in otherwise flat remarks in Colorado, he hinted at a new subject for his stump speech: his father, George Romney, the former governor of Michigan. For Romney, that’s significant.”

Campaign 2012
Virginia: A new Quinnipiac University poll shows former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine narrowly edging former GOP Sen. George Allen 45 percent to 44 percent. The same poll has President Obama beating Mitt Romney 47 percent to 43 percent.

Around the Bigs
The Wall Street Journal, Oil and Gas Boom Lifts U.S. Economy: The use of new drilling techniques to tap oil and gas in shale rocks helped add about 158,500 new oil and gas jobs over the past five years, and has created even more jobs in companies supplying the energy industry and in the broader service industry.

The Wall Street Journal, Obama Seeks Deal on Birth Control: Aides to President Obama are looking for a way to mollify some of the many religious leaders who are upset about new Obamacare regulations that force religious institutions to pay for birth control for their employees.

The Washington Post, Frustrated GOP freshmen target gimmicks that make it hard to cut the budget: Last week, House Republicans voted unanimously to support the inflation-busting Baseline Reform Act and sent it on to the Democrat-controlled Senate. This week, House leaders plan to hold votes on a raft of additional rule-changing measures designed to make it easier to cut spending in Washington.

The Washington Post, Proposed settlement with banks over foreclosure practices dealt a setback: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman abruptly canceled a press conference yesterday, where he was expected to endorse a proposed settlement with banks over foreclosure fraud.

The New York Times, Court Strikes Down Ban on Gay Marriage in California: By a 2-to-1 margin, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals three judge panel ruled that gay marriage bans violate the 14th Amendments equal protection clause, but only in California.

Righty Playbook
The Weekly Standard‘s John McCormack reports that former Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Pa., now says she wouldn’t have voted for Obamacare if she’d known how HHS would implement the Obamacare contraceptive rule.

Rush Limbaugh produces the ad Clint Eastwood should have made for the Super Bowl.

The Heritage Foundation‘s Hans von Spakovsky explains why the 9th Circuits gay marriage decision is sure to be overturned by the Supreme Court.

Lefty Playbook
The Nation‘s Ilyse Hogue explains why former Susan Komen for the Cure Foundation Vice President Karen Handel is “evil.”

Talking Points Memo‘s Jillian Rayfield explains how the 9th Circuit’s gay marriage decision might not make it to the Supreme Court.

Firedoglake‘s David Dayen worries that the White House will cave on the Obamacare contraceptive mandate.

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