Santorum wins Colorado, along with victories in Missouri and Minnesota
Mitt Romney stresses party unity in congratulating Santorum
"Conservatism is alive and well," Santorum tells supporters
The delegate total of 70 in Colorado and Minnesota is the biggest so far of campaign
Rick Santorum awoke to a new reality Wednesday after sweeping all three Republican presidential contests a day earlier, reshaping the contest that will decide who runs against President Barack Obama in November.
Santorum won caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado, as well as a nonbinding primary in Missouri to energize his campaign and raise questions about front-runner Mitt Romney’s ability to attract broad conservative support.
The victories by Santorum bolstered his contention that he is the strongest conservative challenger to the more moderate Romney for the GOP nomination, and the most formidable conservative candidate to take on Obama.
“I don’t stand here and claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney,” Santorum declared to cheering supporters outside St. Louis. “I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.”
Colorado was the most competitive state of the day, with Santorum winning 40% of the vote to 35% for Romney, 13% for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and 12% for Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
After a night of returns trickling in and the lead shifting between Santorum a