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Santorum’s Surprising Sweep: Can He Seize The Moment?

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Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum campaigns in McKinney on Wednesday. (Photo credit KRLD)

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Republican Rick Santorum surprised many by winning the important swing-state of Colorado on Tuesday night — a state that Mitt Romney had been leading in the polls by 10 points. Santorum also won Minnesota and Missouri. And while delegates are not being awarded just yet, the victories give Santorum momentum.

Santorum was in North Texas on Wednesday morning for a full day of area campaigning and fundraising.

First, he met with a group of pastors in McKinney. At that campaign appearance,  at the Bella Donna Chapel Adriatica, Santorum told supporters that he doesn’t want to be the pastor of the United States. But he criticized what he called President Barack Obama’s war on religion. He said his campaign is based on the belief that faith and family amounts to freedom.

Before leaving he told the group he’s not the social conservative in the race, but that he’s the candidate who understands how America works, and that it’s a country based on morals.

“I have seen interaction between faith and public life,” he said. “I won’t check my faith at the door.  It motivates me to do the best for this country.  It motivates me to fight to protect unborn children. It motivates me to do something for the working guy who doesn’t have a job.”

Later Wednesday Santorum met with Tea Party members in Allen and then held a rally at Fairview Farms in Plano.

In his victory speech on Tuesday night, Santorum said that he is the conservative alternative to President Barack Obama. His Tuesday night trifecta raises lots of questions.

1. Can he really seize this moment and use it to raise money and support (something he didn’t capitalize on after Iowa)?

2. Does this spell trouble for Romney? Enthusiasm for the former Massachusetts governor seems to be tepid. Even though he had convincing wins in Florida and Nevada, the numbers show that Republican turnout dropped in both states since 2008. That has got to give Republicans pause.

3. Is Newt Gingrich done? He did not really compete in these states, and is looking ahead to Super Tuesday, March 6, when 11 states hold contests.

Political Analyst John Weekley Looks At Santorum’s Sweep:

As mentioned before, on paper, Santorum seems to have the strongest point of contrast against President Obama. Unlike Romney and Gingrich, he has not supported a required mandate for everyone to buy health insurance, and has not supported stricter environmental regulations as Romney and Gingrich have.

Romney congratulated Santorum on having a good night on Tuesday, but as Santorum has already seen, Romney is starting to attack him. The question for Santorum is, will he be able to respond to the attacks? And will he be able to withstand the pressure that comes along with doing well in primaries and caucuses?

In a one-on-one interview with CBS 11, Santorum said he would be able to capitalize on his momentum.

“I think you’re seeing voters respond to the strongest message,” he told CBS 11. “We’re the best person to go up against Barack Obama –– we present the clearest contrast in the race.”

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