Sen. Roy Blunt -- a prominent supporter of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney -- said Thursday his party's front-runner should have spent more time and money in Missouri before last Tuesday's primary.
"I think elections matter," Missouri's GOP senator told reporters Thursday. "While technically none of these three elections (Missouri, Colorado, Minnesota) produced a single delegate to the convention, which is what the Romney team is apparently focused on, I think you can't act like this process is a process you can pick and choose from."
Rick Santorum won all three contests Tuesday, and hammered Romney in Missouri. Santorum carried every county in the state, as well as Kansas City and St. Louis City.
Santorum-related interests ran commercials in Missouri and the candidate appeared in the state twice, including a day-long campaign the Friday before the primary that included a stop in Lee's Summit, Mo.
Romney spent virtually no time or money in Missouri.
"My guess is Gov. Romney won't be picking and choosing from now on," Blunt. "He'll be out there acting like every Election Day matters, and I hope he does."
Romney campaign officials have said they'll participate in the Missouri GOP caucuses set for March 17. Those meetings are the first step to picking delegates to the Republican National Convention, who are not bound by the primary's results.
If the presidential race is still active in March, though, the GOP will face the delicate issue of whether delegate selection should differ dramatically from the primary.
Santorum won 55% of the primary vote Tuesday. If he gets significantly fewer delegates than that, the party will face questions about ignoring the will of the state's voters, non-binding or not.
That problem won't surface if Romney, or any other candidate, has wrapped up the nomination by then. But Santorum, Ron Paul, and Newt Gingrich have sent repeated signals that they plan to take their campaigns to the August GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., and they might raise objections if Romney lands delegates disproportionate to his 25% popular vote showing Tuesday.
Other Romney supporters have grown critical of the former Massachusetts governor's strategy in recent days, Politico reports.
UPDATE: Columnists, too.