In 2008, Romney crushed John McCain in the Minnesota caucuses by nearly two to one. Tonight, he was sent into a humiliating third-place finish, trailing both Rick Santroum and Ron Paul. In Missouri, McCain held John McCain and Mike Huckabee to something close to a three-way tie, winning 29 percent of the vote. This year, with fewer opponents, he won only 25 percent. In Colorado, Romney outperformed John McCain by three to one in 2008. This year, albeit with only early returns in, he is trailing Santorum. Results from Denver caucus sites will likely boost Romney’s overall showing, but it’s tough to see him winning the state with Santorum performing as well as he is in Colorado Springs and the rural areas.

Santorum is now well primed to raise more money, recruit more volunteers, and better compete in Arizona’s primary at the end of February.

If Romney indeed loses all three states tonight, it will be in large part because he has failed to close the deal with conservatives, who dominate the Republican party more than they did in 2008.