The race to win the Republican presidential nomination heats up after former Senator Rick Santorum delivered a shocking blow to frontrunner Mitt Romney by winning all three nominating contests Tuesday night.
Santorum beat Romney by a staggering 28% in the Minnesota caucuses, 5% in the Colorado caucuses and 30% in Missouri's non-binding contest. In Minnesota Romney actually placed third for the first time this primary season, behind second-place Ron Paul who garnered 27% of the vote versus Romney's 17%.
Romney had been expected to win Colorado after two consecutive wins in Nevada and Florida. He had won both Colorado and Minnesota in his failed attempt for the presidency in 2008. This surprising landslide will certainly have Romney recalculating his campaign ahead of the next races set for later this month in Arizona and Michigan, as well as the critical Super Tuesday vote on March 6.
Newt Gingrich also has some recalibrating to do. He has not won a contest since his South Carolina victory last month. The former Speaker of the House came in last in Minnesota with 11% of the vote, third in Colorado with 12% and was not even listed on the ballot in Missouri.
The Long Road to the White House
There is still a long way to Election Day in November and a lot could change.
What was at stake Tuesday is not a whole lot when you consider the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination. 76 delegates were up for grabs: 40 in Minnesota, 36 in Colorado and zero in Missouri, which will chose its delegates at a state convention in March.
Excluding Tuesday's contests, Romney has won a total of 101 delegates, Gingrich 32, Santorum 17 and Congressman Ron Paul 9, according to tallies by the Associated Press.
On the other hand, when you consider momentum as a key factor for moving forward, Romney is slowing - and slowing fast. Romney still leads Santorum in the polls, but Santorum has now won four nominating races compared to Romney who only has three wins. South Carolina is Gingrich's only win.
The Third Party Option
As the race tightens and continues to shake up at every turn, the more likely the chances are that one of the current Republican candidates will make a run for the Oval Office on a third party ticket.
Ralph Nader, the famed consumer advocate and former presidential candidate, joined The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task to discuss third party presidential politics. He's somewhat of an expert on the subject having run on the Green Party ticket in 1996 and 2000. Nader also ran as an Independent in 2004.
"I think Ron Paul wants to go all the way to the convention so he can present his views and debates to the media all over the country," says Nader. "[But] I don't think he is going to break away."
Nader does, however, think there is a chance Gingrich may be primed for an Independent run. Nader says he's heard chatter that Gingrich may be interested in running as a third party candidate, especially since he has indicated that he is going to fight all the way to the end. If Gingrich ran as a third party candidate, he'd be joining the ranks of comedian and actress Rosanne Barr who is now running on the Green Party ticket.
Nader's advice for Gingrich: "Go for it!"
"The more diversity, the more debate the better, even though the Republicans will do flip-flops if they have to face Gingrich on their right wing," Nader says. "On the liberal side I think you are going to see the Green Party come forward with their candidate -- possibly Jill Stein — the two-time Mayor of Salt Lake City."
Nader said he will not be running for the presidency this year.