WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum on Tuesday swept all three contests took place on that day, trouncing frontrunner Mitt Romney in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado.
Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, won the Missouri primary handily with 55 percent of the votes, followed by Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who got 25 percent. Texas congressman Ron Paul finished third with 12 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was not on the ballot.
The Missouri contest was seen as Santorum's best chance to regain momentum in the race for the Republican presidential nomination as the absence of Gingrich gave him the opportunity to rally conservative voters and go head-to-head with Romney.
Winning the Iowa caucuses last month did inject some momentum into Santorums' campaign, but it turned out to be short-lived and did not translate into real votes in the following contests.
The Missouri primary was more a matter of momentum rather than of delegates. No delegate was at stake in this so-called "beauty contest" primary. The Republican Party of the state will hold caucuses on March 17th which will determine the allocation of 52 delegates sent to the GOP national convention in August.
Tuesday was the first day so far in this election cycle with multiple contests. Apart from Missouri, the candidates also battled in Minnesota and Colorado Tuesday, both in the form of caucuses. Forty delegates were at stake in Minnesota and 36 in Colorado.
Santorum performed well in the Minnesota caucuses, where socially conservatives account for a large portion of the electorate and the former senator has been a favorite among this group. Major networks have projected him winner in the state, with Paul taking the second place, and Romney placing third.
Speaking to supporters in Missouri, Santorum targeted President Barack Obama, who is expected to face off with the winner of the GOP race in November's presidential poll. "I don't stand here to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama," he said to a cheering crowd.
Romney, on the other hand, congratulated Santorum when he spoke to supporters in Colorado later. But Romney also said he believed he will be the ultimate presidential candidate of the Republican Party to challenge Obama.
The results of Colorado came in early Wednesday morning. The state's party chairman Ryan Call said Santorum won the state with about 40 percent of votes, and Romney got about 35 percent.
At least 1,144 delegates are needed for a Republican presidential candidate to secure the nomination. Romney, who claimed victories in New Hampshire, Florida and Nevada, has so far amassed 102 delegates, followed by Gingrich with 35, according to CNN calculations. Paul has been awarded 18 delegates and Santorum with 17.