The Washington Post

Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri: What matters, what doesn’t

There are three primaries today, and no delegates at stake.

Zero. Zilch. None.

But you should still care. Here’s why.


Why nothing is at stake: Colorado, like Iowa, holds non-binding precinct caucuses. Their 36 convention delegates will be chosen at district conventions and the state convention in April.

Why it still matters: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney won the Colorado caucus with 60 percent of the vote in 2008, even though the primary was all but over. If he falls significantly short of that total this time around, his rivals can argue that his popularity has declined.

Delegates are “bound by honor” to vote for the candidates they supported at the caucus level, according to state party chairman Ryan Call, so there is a hard-to-quantify boost from the state.

This swing state will also be a crucial battleground in the general election, and observers will look to turnout and voter preferences for signs of GOP enthusiasm.


Why nothing is at stake: Minnesota also holds non-binding precinct caucuses and its 40 delegates decide their preferences later in the process. Precincts don’t even have to consider the presidential race in delegate selection. The results that are released come from a presidential straw poll.

Why it still matters: Romney won Minnesota in 2008 but is not expected to take it as easily as Colorado. Both former House speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum are hoping to give the front-runner a run for his money here. Former governor Tim Pawlenty, a Romney surrogate, is playing down his own state — a sign of potential concern.

Recent polls have found a divided electorate, meaning there’s real potential for a surprise here.


Why nothing is at stake: Missouri actually starts assigning its 52 delegates at a caucus on March 17th. The primary today is the result of a failed attempt by the state GOP to comply with Republican National Committee rules, stymied by infighting and partisan disputes. Gingrich isn’t even on the ballot.

Why it still matters: Romney has basically ignored Missouri and Gingrich can’t compete there, giving Santorum a good chance at winning. If he took both Minnesota and Missouri, he could plausibly claim some momentum in the race.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.


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