rick santorum*(Via Yahoo News) – No delegates were at stake on Tuesday night, but Rick Santorum still scored three important–and surprisingly large–victories in the race for the Republican presidential nomination by winning caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota and a primary in Missouri.

“Conservatism is alive and well in Missouri and Minnesota,” Santorum said when he took the stage, before the Colorado results had been announced, at his victory party in St. Charles, Mo. He called his wins “a victory for the voices of our party, conservatives and tea party people, who are out there every day in the vineyards.”

“I don’t stand here to claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney,” Santorum went on to say. “I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.”

Romney, who had been discussed as the Republican Party’s inevitable nominee after wins in Florida and Nevada last week, had his worst night of the 2012 presidential campaign.

For the first time, there was a contest where Romney did not finish in first or second place. In Minnesota, Romney fell to third, behind Ron Paul. With 94 percent of the precincts reporting in Minnesota, Santorum led with 45 percent of the vote, followed by Paul with 27 percent, Romney with 17 percent and Newt Gingrich with 11 percent.

Read/learn MORE at Yahoo News.