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Americas

Republican candidates vie for votes in three US states

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-02-07

Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney is hoping to hold onto his lead as he faces three more caucus votes Tuesday, in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, in the battle for his party's 2012 presidential nomination.

AFP - Republican White House hopefuls vying in three presidential votes were unlikely Tuesday to knock Mitt Romney off his front-runner perch, despite a surge from conservative rival Rick Santorum.

Caucuses were being held in Colorado and Minnesota, with a third contest in Missouri, as the candidates eye a long slog through February, in the battle to be crowned the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nominee.

With three victories in the state-by-state contests already under his belt, Romney has become the man to beat for his closest rival former House speaker Newt Gingrich -- despite lingering doubts about the former Massachusetts governor's conservative credentials.

They are battling to be nominated the Republican challenger to take on Democratic President Barack Obama in November's election -- with the final decision to be made in August at the party's convention in Tampa, Florida.

Polls suggest Romney should triumph easily in western Colorado -- where he scored 60 percent in 2008 -- although there is a tighter race in Minnesota, where last-placed Santorum is hoping to snatch a win.

Polls out Monday showed Romney winning by 37 percent in Colorado, with Santorum in second with 27 percent.

In the heartland state of Minnesota however, the two men's fortunes are reversed with Santorum, a Catholic former Pennsylvania senator, holding an unexpected lead of 33 percent to 24 percent for Romney.

Santorum, who has seen his campaign flag after triumphing in the first vote in Iowa, is hoping to carry Minnesota with the help of its large base of evangelical Christian and ultraconservative Tea Party voters.

In theory, Tuesday's three states hold rich pickings as the four remaining candidates -- including last placed US congressman Ron Paul -- try to scoop up enough delegates to pocket the total 1,144 needed to secure the nomination.

But Tuesday's votes will not prove a game-changer. The results in Colorado and Minnesota are non-binding but will help guide the results at state conventions to be held later.

REPUBLICAN ELECTION SCHEDULE

January 3: Iowa caucuses

January 10
: New Hampshire primary

January 21
: South Carolina primary

January 31
: Florida primary

February 4
: Nevada, Maine caucuses

March 6
: "Super Tuesday," a day with primaries in more than 10 states, including Massachusetts, Texas and Virginia. If the race is close (as it was between Obama and Clinton in 2008), the primary season could continue for several months with the nominating contests listed below.

April 3: Maryland, Wisconsin, Washington DC primaries

April 24
: Primaries in five states, including New York and Pennsylvania

June 5
: Primaries in five more states including California
 

Missouri's vote, meanwhile, is being dubbed a "beauty contest" as the state will only award its delegates after a March 17 caucus.

Gingrich, who caused a surprise upset with his South Carolina win over Romney last month, is seen in third place in Colorado and Minnesota, according to the poll carried out by Public Policy Polling.

"I think our country desperately needs a new leader," Romney supporter Scott Honour, 45, told AFP at a campaign stop in Minneapolis Monday. "I support Mitt Romney because he's got real leadership experience.

"I think people will rally (behind him). Right now there's some fractures in the Republican Party. That's not going to happen in the general election."

Gingrich is battling to stay in the race after two heavy losses in a row to Romney, who won in Florida last week and Nevada over the weekend.

In a bid to minimize the impact of any loss in Minnesota -- which Romney won with 41 percent in the 2008 race -- his campaign Tuesday issued a statement saying that "of course, there is no way for any nominee to win first place in every single contest."

"John McCain lost 19 states in 2008, and we expect our opponents to notch a few wins too," it added.

"But unlike the other candidates, our campaign has the resources and organization to keep winning over the long run. A winning conservative message, hard work and old fashioned delegate math will win this race for Governor Romney."

So far in the delegate race, Romney has captured 99 delegates, against 33 for Gingrich, 15 for Paul and 11 for Santorum.

Tuesday's non-binding caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota will be the last contests before the results of Maine's week-long straw poll are released on February 11, and Michigan Republicans vote in a February 28 primary.

The caucuses begin at 7:00 pm (0100 GMT in Minnesota and 0200 GMT in Colorado) and results may not immediately be available.

Date created : 2012-02-07

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