The Big Story Blog

GOP hopefuls eye Minnesota, Colorado, Missouri contests

Posted at 4:00 PM on February 7, 2012 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Politics

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AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Surprises don't often happen this deep into caucus and primary season. But tonight's caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado and today's Missouri primary could scramble the GOP nomination.

Rick Santorum's likability and conservative credentials have driven him to early leads here and Missouri and positioned well in Colorado, according to the firm Public Policy Polling.

Rick Santorum could be headed for a big day in today's contests in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri.

Missouri looks like a probable win for Santorum. He's at 45% there to 32% for Mitt Romney and 19% for Paul.
Minnesota provides an opportunity for a win as well. Currently he has a small advantage with 33% to 24% for Romney, 22% for Newt Gingrich, and 20% for Ron Paul.

And Santorum should get a second place finish in Colorado, where Romney appears to be the likely winner. The standings there are Romney at 37%, Santorum at 27%, Gingrich at 21%, and Paul at 13%.

Santorum edged out Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses last month. And while Romney has scored big victories in New Hampshire and Florida, he's been unable to break away completely from the pack.

Technically, Minnesota Republicans will not be voting for delegates tonight. MPR News reporter Mark Zdechlik writes it's more a game of bragging rights.

The straw poll is non-binding, so the results will have little to do with how Minnesota's delegates will eventually be allocated at the Republican National Convention in August.

But the caucuses are the first step in a winnowing process that will send delegates to Republican and Democratic county conventions, Congressional district conventions, state and eventually national conventions. The 4,137 local community meetings on each side will also give those who turn out the chance to debate and vote on issues they think are important.
Still, the fight over Minnesota's Republican convention delegates is intriguing. If Romney can't pull away and Republicans go into their convention without a clear-cut candidate, Minnesota's delegates could be very important.

Laying out scenarios for a brokered GOP convention, the Washington Post wrote recently that Minnesota's potentially unbound delegates could play kingmaker:

Another scenario... is that no candidate comes in with a majority, but it's a close call. In that case, all eyes would focus on the "unbound" delegates -- the delegates who can theoretically vote for whoever they wanted.

There are 412 such delegates now, including a number of state party chairs, and Minnesota and Louisiana could still decided to "unbind" their 65 delegates at upcoming state conventions. Add it up, and that's a potentially powerful swing bloc... about one-fifth of the delegates..."

Unlikely? You bet. But it's intriguing enough to pay attention tonight. Minnesota's caucuses start at 7 p.m.


About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.