Santorum captures Missouri's nonbinding primary
By PHILIP ELLIOTT
ST. CHARLES, Mo. (AP) — Republican Rick Santorum's win in Missouri's non-binding presidential primary Tuesday could end front-runner Mitt Romney's modest winning streak and launch his comeback for the party's nomination.
The former Pennsylvania senator's victory in Missouri was worth bragging rights but no delegates. They will be chosen beginning next month in caucuses expected to draw far more competition from Romney, Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Gingrich wasn't on the ballot and Romney and Paul barely campaigned here.
Meanwhile, the 70 delegates at stake in Colorado and Minnesota combined were the biggest one-day total so far in the GOP race to name an opponent for President Barack Obama.
Earlier in the day, Santorum urged supporters to reset the Republican presidential race and deny the aura of inevitability to Romney. Santorum also said they must reject Obama's secular policies.
"You've got a big caucus tonight," Santorum said at the start of a three-state swing that included stops in Minnesota and Missouri, where he awaited election results. "If you look at the polls, today could be a very good day for conservatives."
Santorum began a busy campaign day in the Christian conservative stronghold of Colorado Springs, home base for the Christian group Focus on the Family, whose leader has endorsed him.
Citing the Obama administration's recent requirement that church-affiliated employers cover birth control for their workers, he told a gathering that Obama was trampling on their faith and forcing them to live according to his secular worldview.
"Ladies and gentlemen, it's not just your economic rights," said Santorum, a Catholic, vowing to make the issue a centerpiece of his White House bid. "It's your freedom of religion. It's your freedom of speech."
Santorum largely bypassed last week's contests in Florida and Nevada to lay the groundwork for Tuesday's trio of states. He's been aggressively criticizing Romney and Gingrich and holding himself out as the candidate best able to defeat Obama.
Santorum was the victor in Iowa, but since then had chalked up four consecutive losses. (Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)