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Santorum wins big — and Romney loses big — in Minnesota

Rick Santorum speaking at a rally in Blaine earlier on Tuesday.

Rick Santorum was the big winner — and Mitt Romney the huge loser — in Minnesota’s Republican caucuses Tuesday night.

Santorum, who also was a huge winner in the Missouri primary and was running neck and neck with Romney in Colorado, had a double-digit lead over Ron Paul and was more than 20 points ahead of Romney. Newt Gingrich, who only a few weeks ago was the favorite among Minnesota Republicans, finished a dismal fourth.

Santorum’s huge win in the non-binding straw poll held in conjunction with the GOP caucuses was all the more remarkable given that Romney was a 19-point winner over John McCain in Minnesota just four years ago.

Paul, the only one of the four Republican candidates who was in the state, was trying to claim at least a partial victory in Minnesota.

“Believe it or not, we did very well, a strong second place,’’ Paul told cheering supporters in Golden Valley. “It’s going to continue. One other thing — it’s called delegates. That is where we do very well.’’

Paul’s forces were claiming that they advanced a large number of delegates to the next round of the long process leading up to May’s GOP state convention.

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