US Republican Presidential Race Moves to Colorado, Minnesota

Posted February 7th, 2012 at 4:10 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is hoping to solidify his front-runner status in the race for his party's nomination with strong showings in Tuesday's caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota.

Romney held a rally Tuesday in Colorado, where he appears poised to win. But polls in Minnesota have suggested former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum could take first place there. Santorum was holding campaign events Tuesday in Colorado and Minnesota, as well as Missouri, which holds its primary Tuesday.

Romney won Colorado and Minnesota when he unsuccessfully ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. Going into the current contests in the states, the former Massachusetts governor is fresh from two huge victories in Florida and Nevada. He also won the New Hampshire primary.

Despite Romney's successes in the state contests, a new poll indicates Republican support for him nationwide has fallen during the past month. In the Reuters/Ipsos telephone survey conducted this month, 29 percent of Republican voters backed Romney, down one percent from a survey in early January. The latest survey showed Texas Congressman Ron Paul's support growing by 5 percent to 21 percent, putting him in second place ahead of former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich . Santorum also saw a 5 percent rise in support to land close behind Gingrich .

The Reuters news agency says the results suggest Romney still has many doubters among Republicans.

Tuesday's caucuses are part of the state-by-state process to pick a Republican challenger to take on President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in the November election. A total of 70 delegates are up for grabs in the two states, although they will not be awarded in the caucuses. The states will choose their delegates later at district and state conventions. Missouri's primary is also non-binding, and no delegates are at stake.

To be selected to face Mr. Obama, a Republican needs to have the support of 1,144 delegates at the Republican nominating convention in Florida in August. To date, Romney has a reported 101 committed delegates, Gingrich 32, Santorum 17 and Paul 9.

Gingrich, once considered Romney's top rival for the nomination, held a large lead in the Colorado polls late last year. But he has since lost ground in that state and was focusing his attention Tuesday on Ohio, as the state begins early voting ahead of its primary on March 6. Gingrich has vowed to fight all the way to the August nominating convention.

Meanwhile, Paul holds an election event in Minnesota Tuesday night.

In a hypothetical election match-up, an ABC News-Washington Post poll indicates President Obama would beat Romney. The survey shows Mr. Obama ahead 51 percent to 45 percent among registered voters . The poll found that half of those surveyed approve of President Obama's job performance and believe he deserves a second term.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday found Mr. Obama's approval rating is up one percent from the January survey to reach 48 percent, but his disapproval rating is the same at 49 percent.