4:42pm

Tue February 7, 2012
It's All Politics

Minnesota, Missouri And Colorado: Live Blog And Results

Welcome to our live blog of the Republican presidential primary in three states: Colorado and Minnesota are holding caucuses and Missouri is holding a non-binding GOP presidential primary.

What does that mean in Missouri? The primary is known as a "beauty contest" because delegates will ultimately be determined by caucuses beginning March 17. But, according to polls, the state could buck Mitt Romney and favor Rick Santorum.

So stay with us throughout the evening and refresh this page to get the latest updates. (If you want real-time results, head here.)

Update at 10:45 p.m. ET. Santorum Speaks:

Santorum came on stage at his St. Charles, Missouri headquarters and he came out looking absolutely ecstatic.

"Conservatism is alive and well in Missouri and Minnesota," he said to huge applause to start his speech.

Update at 10:31 p.m. ET. Hearts Or Minds In Minnesota:

Minnesota Public Radio has been talking to caucus goers in the state and it seems what we've seen throughout these primaries is also true tonight. As the Washington Post put it in a story Jan. 23, the contest is a fight for Republican hearts or minds.

The Minnesota voters MPR talked to said the same thing: The pragmatists supported Romney because they said he's most likely to beat President Obama. While others said they supported Santorum because he held their same values.

Update at 10:32 p.m. ET. CNN, NBC, AP Project Santorum Takes Minnesota:

The night is getting bigger for Rick Santorum: CNN, NBC News and The Associated Press are projecting that Santorum has won Minnesota. The call was made based on counts of actual votes. At this moment, with 28 percent of the votes counted, Santorum holds an 18 point lead over Ron Paul and a 28 point lead over Romney.

Update at 10:22 p.m. ET. Romney Chances In A One-On-One Match:

The SuperPAC that supports Rick Santorum just issued this statement:

"'Tonight's victory should put to bed the idea that the Republican nomination for Mitt Romney is inevitable,' said Stuart Roy, a RWB Fund advisor. 'When Republicans are given the choice between a principled conservative and a calculated convert to conservatism, principles win big.'"

Just as important is that they point out that in Missouri Romney ran against Santorum one-on-one, because Gingrich was not on the ballot. That they said proves that Santorum can beat Romney in a head-to-head battle.

Former Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer made the same point on CNN, earlier. Essentially, he said, Romney takes the GOP nomination if he can keep Santorum and Gingrich in the race.

Update at 10:09 p.m. ET. Early Returns In Colo. Put Santorum In The Lead:

With 7 percent of precincts reporting here are the numbers from Colorado:

-- Santorum: 49.6 percent

-- Gingrich: 21.4 percent

-- Romney: 18.9 percent

Update at 9:58 p.m. ET. Chances Of A Santorum Sweep?

The New York Times' statistics guru Nate Silver is posing what is the likely to be the night's most intriguing question, "Can Santorum sweep all three contests tonight?"

And before we move on, it's important to keep in mind two things: delegates will not be assigned tonight and it's very early in the night. With that, Silver says that while it is "too soon for Romney to panic in Colorado," Santorum's performance in Missouri and Minnesota is reason for concern.

"Based on the results we have so far," explains Silver, "it appears as though Mr. Santorum could beat his polling by a decent margin in both Minnesota and Missouri. Polling errors are often strongly correlated when states vote on the same night, and if Mr. Santorum did the same thing in Colorado - where he trailed Mr. Romney by 10 points in the Public Policy Polling survey there - he could go three-for-three tonight."

Update at 9:48 p.m. ET. 'A Symbolic Win':

CNN's political analyst David Gergen says that this Santorum win means that Romney has lost two of the last three midwestern states, which is "not a good position for a Republican candidate."

Gloria Borger said that in the "very least, this is an embarrassment for Romney." While, this is a symbolic win in Missouri said Gorger, it "interrupts Romney's march" toward the nomination, which is what Santorum wanted to do.

Update at 9:44 p.m. ET. CNN, AP Project Santorum Wins Missouri:

CNN and the AP are projecting that Rick Santorum has won Missouri. The two have made the call with 41 percent of the precincts reporting and with Santorum holding a huge 29 point lead. Note that this call was made without the benefit of entrance and exit polls.

Update at 9:27 p.m. ET. Santorum Leads In Minnesota:

In early returns in Minnesota, Santorum has taken the lead with 46 percent of the vote. Ron Paul is in second place with 24 percent of the vote. Romney is in third with 17.6 percent.

Update at 9:21 p.m. ET. Turnout Mixed In Colorado:

In its first pass at the night, The Denver Post reports that some precinct are reporting an anemic turnout, while others are bursting at the seams.

Other signs, however, point to a big turnout in Colorado. The Post reports:

"More than 45,000 Republicans pre-registered to participate in tonight's caucuses and another 22,000 went online to find their caucus location, said Chuck Poplstein, executive director of the Colorado Republican Committee. About 3,000 people have signed up to volunteer.

"That could put the party on track to exceed 2008, when about 70,000 people participated."

Update at 9:16 p.m. ET. Santorum Takes The Lead In Mo.:

With 10 percent of the precincts reporting, Santorum has taken the lead in Missouri. The count:

-- Santorum: 49.7 percent.

-- Romney: 28.1 percent

-- Paul: 11.7 percent

-- Uncommitted: 6 percent

Update at 9:11 p.m. ET. Counting Begins In Colorado:

The caucuses in Colorado began at 9 p.m. ET. And CNN is showing pictures from a caucus in Castle Rock, where Republican voters have begun to talk about each candidate and in some cases have made their decisions. CNN showed images of caucus leaders counting votes.

Update at 9:05 p.m. ET. Ron Paul Signs Dollar Bills:

After Ron Paul finished addressing the caucus crowd in Maple Grove, Minn., Patrick Kessler, a political reporter for Minneapolis' WCCO, says Paul signed dollar bills. Kessler, clearly referencing Paul's impassioned plea for a return to the gold standard, tweets:

"Ron Paul signed dollar bills for supporters at Coon Rapids, MN caucus. Does that make them worth more, or less?"

Update at 8:53 p.m. ET. Making A Point At The Minn. Caucuses:

Our friends at Minnesota Public Radio are blogging the caucuses in their state. The early impression, reports MPR's Paul Tosto, is that turnout will be good.

Another interesting angle is that across the state, Minnesotan's are making a point about requiring voters to show ID at polling places. MPR reports that caucus goers in some precincts are scanning their driver's licenses as they arrive and the "information will go electronically to the Secretary of State's website." It's basically a proof of concept.

The Minnesota legislature, reports MPR, is "weighing a constitutional amendment that would require photo identification to vote. The demonstration is meant to bolster support for the idea."

Melissa Martz, a photojournalist, posted a photo of one of those precincts.

Update at 8:43 p.m. ET. The 'Uncommitted' Vote:

If you look at the returns for Missouri, you'll find that so far 6 percent of the votes are going toward "uncommitted."

The New York Times' Nate Silver explains that a "vote for no one is a vote for Newt." That's Newt Gingrich who didn't qualify to be on the ballot. But Silver provides a bit of interesting trivia:

"Once more common in primaries and caucuses - uncommitted "won" the Iowa Democratic caucuses in 1972 and 1976 - the uncommitted option has become more rare in recent years."

Update at 8:40 p.m. ET. Early Returns:

With just one percent of the vote counted, Romney leads with 40 percent of the vote, with Santorum in second with 33 percent of the vote.

Returns for Minnesota have also started trickling in.

Update at 8:34 p.m. ET. The Delegate Count:

For some perspective, here's The Wall Street Journal's delegate tracker. Romney leads with 101 delegates, including 50 from Florida, which is a winner-take-all state.

Gingrich, who is contesting Florida's right to be a winner-take-all state, comes in second with 32 delegates.

The threshold for nomination is 1,144 delegates.

Update at 8:31 p.m. ET. Ron Paul Speaks At Minnesota Caucus:

Ron Paul, who has been working caucus states hard, is now talking to a caucus in Minnesota. CNN's video showed that Paul took the stage to applause. He introduced himself and is now outlining his platform, starting with his idea of returning the United States to the gold standard.

Update at 8:24 p.m. ET. An Explanation Of Delegate Counts:

So what really counts and doesn't count tonight? Political Scientist Jonathan Bernstein explains it in great detail. But here's the bottom line: Missouri will give candidates bragging rights and that's about it.

But to say that Colorado and Minnesota don't count is folly. Basically, Bernstein writes, the delegate count will likely go according to the results of today's caucuses.

"On caucus night, I think it's reasonable to report the straw vote and treat it as a real result; that is, as a vote proper, and not similar to the Ames Straw Poll or even to tonight's Missouri primary, which is entirely unattached to the delegate process," Bernstein writes.

Update at 8:19 p.m. ET. Missouri Results start Trickling In:

The returns from Missouri are now trickling in.

Update at 8:12 p.m. ET. Polls Close In Missouri:

Polls have closed in Missouri. And caucuses are on their way in Minnesota.

Update at 7:21 p.m. ET. A Note On Timing:

Just so you know what's to come, here's how we expect the night to unfold:

-- Polls in Missouri close at 8 p.m. ET. Caucuses convene in Minnesota at that time too.

-- Colorado's caucuses convene at 9 p.m. ET.

-- We expect for results to start trickling in from Minnesota as early as 8:15 p.m.

-- Results from Colorado may not be complete until about midnight in the East Coast.

Update at 7:09 p.m. ET. Romney Manages Expectations:

One of the big stories today has been that Romney's campaign tried to temper expectations. In a memo, Romney's political director Rich Beeson said it's impossible for one candidate to win all contests. But the math is on Romney's side.

Beeson makes a couple of main points: Minnesota, Missouri And Colorado don't matter and in March with the great many contests on the calendar, "organization and resources are key." Romney's campaign, argues Beeson, is the only one with the money and ground game to take on that many states at one time.

Frank wrapped up the memo best saying Beeson was essentially saying, "resistance is futile."

Update at 6:57 p.m. ET. Real-Time Results:

We'll be providing real-time results on this page.

Update at 6:47 p.m. ET. Does Missouri Matter?:

A "beauty contest" it may be, writes NPR's Alan Greenblatt, but for Rick Santorum today's primary is a big deal. And it has more to do with the potential to have conservatives line up behind him and not Newt Gingrich. It has to do with creating enough momentum that he rises up to become "the true alternative for mainstream Republicans dissatisfied with front-runner Mitt Romney."

Alan reports:

"'Beauty contest or no beauty contest, Santorum has a real chance to win two out of the three races on Tuesday,' says Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, which has surveyed Missouri Republicans repeatedly. 'Even if that's pointless from a delegate standpoint, it might have a huge effect on uniting conservatives nationally around him.'"

The Washington Post agrees, saying Santorum needs to win two states to make that case:

"If Santorum wins one of the two states, it's more of a mixed bag. If he wins Missouri, he can argue that he can beat Romney in a head-to-head matchup (Newt Gingrich isn't on the ballot). If he wins Minnesota, he can argue that this was a state Romney carried handily in 2008.

"But without both, his case won't be as convincing, especially since late polling showed him winning both."

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