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Forum editorial: Romney still can't seal deal

Rick Santorum's three primary/caucus wins Tuesday in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado might give his campaign new, if fleeting, life, but the outcomes are bad news for Republicans focused on making Barack Obama a one-term president.

Rick Santorum's three primary/caucus wins Tuesday in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado might give his campaign new, if fleeting, life, but the outcomes are bad news for Republicans focused on making Barack Obama a one-term president.

The former Pennsylvania senator scored impressive wins in the nonbinding contests over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Romney's nemesis, former speaker of the U.S. House Newt Gingrich. Gingrich did not run in Missouri, and he did not do well in Minnesota or Colorado.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who is counting on the small-turnout caucus states to keep his curious campaign alive, actually came in ahead of Romney and Gingrich in Minnesota.

The results Tuesday likely generated big smiles in the White House, where the president and his campaign team are enjoying the divisive family squabble among Republicans. As every round of primaries and caucuses is completed, the pattern is repeated: front-runner status changes, confirming the wildly unsatisfied nature of the 2012 Republican electorate. Nothing could make the Obama camp happier than more affirmation of the divisions among Republicans by Republicans.

Whoa! say Republican strategists. At this time in 2008, Republicans had not settled on a nominee. Arizona Sen. John McCain was embroiled in a nasty, extended primary fight. McCain eventually prevailed and won his party's nomination.

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Which might cause the cynic to ask: How did that go for Republicans? McCain, seen by many in the party's base as not conservative enough, was soundly beaten in November by a hitherto unknown, untested one-term Democratic senator from Illinois.

Romney's inability to emerge as a strong front-runner among Republicans is not his only problem. Several new polls show his standing has slipped among independent voters in large part because he's been forced to the right by the relative success of Santorum and Gingrich. But no candidate of either party can win in November without significant support from independents.

Tuesday was not a good day for Romney or, for that matter, all Republicans. It was, however, another good day for the president.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.

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