Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator and perpetual moral scold, is unlikely to be the next president. But politicians often have inflated opinions of themselves, and some voters will always indulge them.
For Mr. Santorum, the first to do so were in Iowa, where he won the Republican caucuses. This week, he won the nonbinding Missouri primary and caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado.
This was a vindication of his campaign strategy to concentrate not on Florida, where he got trounced last week, but on places where he could reach out to evangelical voters and Tea Party stalwarts.
Yet his success yielded few delegates. The results are more a timely snapshot of sympathies. These were unflattering for all the candidates, even the winner.
This week's bragging rights amount to Mr. Santorum being the favorite of hard-core conservatives outside major media markets. That is not much of a recommendation in a general election, where a candidate's appeal must be broad.
Mitt Romney, still the front-runner, has a different problem. Just when he seemed to have been accepted by the party, the old bugbear of his not being a genuine conservative has revived.
In what could be interpreted as a protest vote, Republican voters in all three states went out of their way to choose Mr. Santorum, who offered himself as an ideological purist. In doing so, they consigned Newt Gingrich even farther to the outer darkness.
With Ron Paul chugging along -- he finished second in Minnesota -- the GOP primary season goes on, with public affections changing as if with the wind.