that Rick Santorum, of all people, was the big winner yesterday among wannabe Republican presidential nominees thanks to victories in the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses and the Missouri primary. But his prize didn't come in delegates, since none were at stake in any of the contests -- a fact that led MSNBC's Rachel Maddow to argue that the Republicans' method of choosing a presidential nominee is a mess.
Of course, Maddow isn't exactly the most objective observer of the political scene; she's decidedly left of center. But during the 7 p.m. Mountain edition of her signature program, before all but the most preliminary Colorado results were in, she used the lack of delegates at stake, along with counting problems at earlier competitions in Iowa and Nevada, to blast the caucus system as a whole, pretty much treating it as an elaborate joke rather than an idealized microcosm of democracy in action.
Not that the Colorado GOP appears to have botched its tally. Although the results came in late, they seem broadly encompassing and all but complete. Here's the current tally from the Republican Party website, which features an interactive map displaying county-by-county totals:
The turnout of 65,000-plus is below that recorded in 2008, according to our Monday interview with Colorado Republican Party boss Ryan Call. That year, around 70,000 people took part, and gave a resounding victory to Mitt Romney, who earned 42,218 votes, or just over 42,000 votes -- numbers helpfully provided by the Colorado Democratic Party.
The Dems clearly don't take the apparent Santorum surge seriously. In a statement, Colorado Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio aimed all his buckshot at the second-place finisher, declaring, "Colorado Republicans affirmed a trend that we're seeing across the country: The more voters learn about Mitt Romney, the less they like him." But an equally intriguing issue is whether or not last night's beauty contests were significant in any way whatsoever.
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Here's a clip from Maddow's show a little later in the evening than the segment referred to above, when more of the Colorado numbers were in.
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More from our Politics archive: "Ryan Call on why Colorado Republican caucuses mean more than ever."