Santorum captures Missouri's nonbinding primary - KMOV.com

Santorum captures Missouri's nonbinding primary

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By KMOV Web Producer By KMOV Web Producer

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum easily won Missouri's nonbinding Republican presidential primary Tuesday, claiming momentum in his challenge against national front-runner Mitt Romney even though the victory won't earn him any delegates.

Santorum was the only Republican candidate to campaign for Missouri's primary, which he hoped could give him a boost heading into a big round of state primaries in early March. Although contests also were held Tuesday in Minnesota and Colorado, Santorum chose Missouri's Republican-leaning St. Charles County to celebrate a victory that he said could be heard around the country.

"I don't stand here to claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney," Santorum said Tuesday night. "I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama."

Missouri's primary was essentially a glorified public opinion poll, and it drew a relatively few voters. That's because the state Republican Central Committee chose to award the state's delegates to the Republican National Convention using a caucus system that will begin in mid-March.

The primary results will be used to allot delegates for Missouri Democrats, who handed an easy victory Tuesday to Obama.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul were the only other prominent -- and still active -- candidates listed on Missouri's Republican primary ballot. Newt Gingrich did not pay the $1,000 filing fee to appear in the primary, explaining that the vote didn't count for any delegates.

But the ballot still listed several other Republicans who had paid the fee before quitting the race, including Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Jon Huntsman.

Santorum had campaigned last week St. Charles County and had also made a swing from Hannibal to Fulton, Columbia and Lee's Summit -- appearing at the Columbia event with James Dobson, the founder of the evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family. A political action committee supporting Santorum also had been running ads in Missouri.

While campaigning in Missouri, Santorum said he hoped that a primary victory could not only give him momentum for other states, but also aid him in Missouri's March 17 Republican caucuses -- the first of a multistep process by which Missouri will allot its 52 presidential delegates.

Retired postal worker Victor Baker, 68, of Jefferson City, said he voted for Santorum on Tuesday and was considering attending the caucuses to officially register his support.

He said of Santorum: "He's a true person, as honest as a politician can be."

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a Romney supporter, congratulated Santorum on his primary victory but stressed that "Missouri's delegates are still very much up for grabs."

"Mitt Romney has the organization and the resources to go the distance in this election, and I believe he'll ultimately win our party's nomination," Blunt said in an emailed statement.

Missouri found itself in the odd situation of having both a nonbinding primary and subsequent Republican caucuses because of political spats at the state Capitol.

After states scrambled to move near the front of the presidential contest in 2008, the national Republican Party warned that states jumping to the front in 2012 would lose half their delegates. Missouri tried to comply. The Republican-led Legislature last year passed a bill that would have repealed a 2002 law requiring the presidential primary to be held Feb.7 and instead scheduled it for March 6. But Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill, citing objections to unrelated sections.

Nixon then added the presidential primary to the agenda for an autumn special session, and the state Republican Party urged lawmakers to reschedule the February vote for later. But Republican senators squabbled among themselves and, ultimately, nothing passed.

Not wanting to get penalized by the national party, the Missouri Republican Central Committee decided to hold spring caucuses to allot its presidential delegates. Yet because the law mandating a February primary remained on the books, both had to occur.

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