VOTE 2012

Colorado, Minnesota primaries on tap for GOP candidates

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(AP) - Now it's on to Colorado, Minnesota and Maine.

Romney became the first GOP candidate to win back-to-back states in this campaign season. (Photo: Associated Press)

With back-to-back victories fueling him, Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney is looking toward the next states that hold GOP nominating contests as main rival Newt Gingrich brushes aside any talk of abandoning his White House bid - all but ensuring the battle will stretch into the spring if not beyond.

Shortly after losing big to Romney here, the former House speaker emphatically renewed his vow to campaign into the party convention in Tampa this summer. His goal, he said, was to "find a series of victories which by the end of the Texas primary will leave us at parity" with Romney by early April.

Gingrich continued to shrug off Nevada's caucus results in an appearance on Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press."

"This is the state he won last time, and he won it this time," he said of Romney. "Our goal is to get to Super Tuesday where we're in much more favorable territory."

But first, Gingrich must make it through Colorado and Minnesota, which both hold caucuses Tuesday. Maine follows on Saturday during a month that promises to be as plodding as January was rapid-fire in the presidential race. Romney will look to maintain his position of strength, if not build upon it, as his rivals continue working to derail him even as their options for doing so narrow with each victory he notches.

The former Massachusetts governor held a double-digit lead Sunday morning over his nearest pursuer as the totals mounted in Nevada, where fellow Mormons accounted for roughly a quarter of all caucus-goers. Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul vied for a distant second. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum trailed the field.

Santorum won the leadoff caucuses in Iowa and has trailed in the contests since then. He nonetheless insisted on Sunday that "our numbers are moving up continually."

"I think we're going to show improvement. This race is a long long way from being over," Santorum said on Fox News Sunday.

And on ABC's "This Week," Paul maintained the results show voters are still up for grabs.

"I get energized because I know there's a large number of people who are looking for another option," Paul said.

 

Romney won the GOP caucuses with 50 percent of the vote, giving him 14 delegates. Newt Gingrich won six delegates, Ron Paul won five and Rick Santorum got three.

Nevada awarded its 28 delegates in proportion to the statewide vote. Romney now has a total of 101 delegates to the party's national convention, including endorsements from Republican National Committee members who will automatically attend the gathering and can support any candidate they choose. Gingrich has a total of 32, Santorum has 17 and Paul has nine.

 

Romney's victory capped a week that began with his double-digit win in the Florida primary. That contest was as intense as Nevada's caucuses were sedate, so quiet that they produced little television advertising, no candidate debates and only a modest investment of time by the contenders.

A total of 28 Republican National Convention delegates were at stake in caucuses held across the sprawling state. Romney won at least 10, Gingrich at least four, Paul at least three and Santorum at least two. Nine were still to be determined.

That gives Romney a total of 97, including endorsements from Republican National Committee members who will automatically attend the convention and can support any candidate they choose. Gingrich has 30, Santorum 16 and Paul seven. It will take 1,144 delegates to win the Republican nomination.

Romney Monday is dispatching top surrogates to attack rival Rick Santorum over Santorum's past support for spending on pork-barrel projects.

Romney is the front-runner in the Republican presidential race and he's working to fend off an unexpected challenge from former Pennsylvania senator Santorum in the next states to vote.

Those are Colorado and Minnesota on Tuesday. Santorum is countering the attacks and saying Romney should not be the GOP nominee. Santorum points to the health care overhaul Romney signed into law in Massachusetts when he was governor as one reason why not.

 

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