ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — In presidential politics, Minnesota is as close to a Democratic fortress as states come.

It has tantalized Republicans in recent presidential campaigns, but it’s still wound up as general election fool’s gold for the GOP ever since Richard Nixon last won it for the party in 1972.

So it’s easy to understand why Minnesota Republicans are basking in the presidential glare now. For Tuesday’s caucuses at least, they have the spotlight to themselves — and a genuine piece of the action.

This year’s Minnesota caucuses drew their first significant attention from the contenders in memory, with all four hopefuls dropping by in the final week. Front-runner Mitt Romney stopped in last week, while Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum were in town as late as Monday.

Usually, the Republican nomination fight is wrapped up well before voters in the wintry enclave get a say. Or the primary calendar lumps Minnesota with states that offer bigger prizes.

Republican caucus attendees tend toward the conservative, especially those most concerned with social issues. Tea party members stormed the caucuses two years ago and could play a role this time, too.

A straw ballot will crown a winner Tuesday night, but delegates to the summer’s Republican National Convention won’t be decided for several more months.

Four years ago, more than 60,000 Republicans turned out and Romney trounced eventual nominee John McCain. That more than doubled attendance from 2004, but was overshadowed by the more than 200,000 Democrats who headed to their caucuses to give Barack Obama a 2-to-1 win over Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Turnout at the state’s caucuses tends to be a tiny fraction of eligible voters in a state that prides itself on nation-leading fall participation. Minnesota used to have a primary rather than a caucus, but that was abandoned more than a half-century ago.

In Minnesota, voters don’t register with a party designation. So on caucus night, people can participate in any party caucus they want at hundreds of schools, community centers and other locations. And they have a host of choices: the Independence Party, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and several minor parties all had a chance to put on caucuses.

With Obama a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination, all eyes are on the GOP results. There was a sense among party veterans that the big four were tightly bunched and turnout would dictate the winner. A lower turnout favored Santorum and Paul because of the intensity of their support among religious conservatives and anti-war Republicans, respectively.

Even Romney’s top Minnesota surrogate, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, wasn’t ready to predict the former Massachusetts governor would score a second straight win here.

“It will be very competitive. I can’t tell you who will come out on top,” Pawlenty said Monday.

The caucuses start at 8 p.m. EST and nearly complete results are typically known within a few hours.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (23)
  1. kevin says:

    When the general election comes Obama will not be a shoe in. He will face Solyndra scandal and fast and fuirous murder of an ATF agent. There will be no more hiding behind the justice dept corrupted by Erik Holder. VOTERS WILL NOT FORGET.

    1. Stands with a vote says:

      Whatever Kevin, back to the basement.

      1. DontTread says:

        So these things didn’t actually happen? Back to your blinders.

      2. DEEP says:

        Kevin is only wrong because people (like you) believe the baker owned media lies about the baker funded wars and the banker puppets like the President. I don’t believe Obama or Holder will fry over the 47,000 deaths on our border drug war with Mexico. I think Obama will be placed in for another 4 years so the drug war can keep putting poor (mostly black) people in prison for non-violent drug crimes and kill more poor (mostly black) people in places like Africa. Want to end the drug and terror wars? Want peace? Vote for Ron Paul 2012!

        1. Real Talk says:

          What type of bakers are you hanging out with that own media outlets and fund wars? I guess Betty Crocker is public enemy #1 in your mind huh??

          The ironic part is that it is your own ignornce makes you irrelavant….lol

          1. DEEP says:

            Hah! ya got me on a typo. BANKERS! I meant BANKERS! WAIT!? YOU MEAN THE BIG MULTINATIONAL BANKING INSTITUTIONS ARE THE GOOD GUYS? HEY! I’m not ignorant! Your ignorant and a big fatty snotty pants! SO NOW WHAT HUH!? YEA Obushma!

            1. Real Talk says:

              Ghetto speak…does not compute! Does anyone here speak Jive?

              1. DEEP says:

                Hey!? You used “lol”? That’s so 2010! I see what you are “Real Talk”. You troll this site and likely many others and look for people’s typo’s, name call and make rude childish comments in general. How about some real talk about real issues, “Real Talk”? No? I didn’t think so. RON PAUL 2012! Jobs for bakers down with bankers 2012!

  2. Jacob says:

    I will be voting for Senator Rick Santorum tonight at my caucus in Mounds View!

    1. Real Talk says:

      I bet you will be eating a little Santorum tonight at your caucus too!!

      How funny it is that people flock to these self-serving morons like it actually matters. Do you think any of these canidates has had an original thought in their whole life? With the exception of Paul….they all prescribe to the party platform and suckle at the party teat for more & more money.

      Obama, Romeny, Santorum…..what the hell is the difference. If you believe any of these canidates has anything other than their own self interest at heart….you are a fool.

    2. Accidental Resident says:

      I wonder if I’ll be the only Santorum voter in North Minneapolis. For that matter, will I be the only Republican in North Minneapolis?

  3. DEEP says:

    Who is the man we can trust to follow the Constitution? Who is this guy that openly talks about CIA drug running, the 47,000 dead on our border with Mexico in the drug war, the unfair treatment of poor people in our courts, the largest prison population in the world!? Who get’s by far the most donations from active duty troops? RON PAUL! Ron Paul 2012!

    1. what!?! says:

      here is the thing about Ron Paul. He says all of these things but he still buys into the 2 party system. So in my mind that makes him a hypocrite. If he is really the guy he wants us to believe he is then why not run independently? Why run as a republican? That’s my only gripe with the guy. Other than that he has some pretty interesting ideas.

      1. DEEP says:

        I hear ya. Dr. Paul has answered this question in a number of interviews. Independents just don’t get the air time and included in debates ect. Ron Paul knows the game and is playing it as best he can with the support he has. Just look at how Obama flip flopped on “Super Pac’s” yesterday. Golly just look at the money The Dept’ of Defense gives to Obama and Romney.

        1. what!?! says:

          Well Obama probably has a billion dollars to spend on his campaign so why give it up if its legal and can buy you another term. So i cant fault him or any one for that. But Ron man.. The guy is clearly not part of the rest of these jerks.. I think he is shooting himself in the foot by association. Look at the crowd of folks that the republican party appeals to.. They will never support Ron in a million years.

          1. DEEP says:

            Again, I hear ya. Valid point. But I trust RP knows the game better than either of us……. I want Ron Paul as President of the USA 2012!

  4. Murph says:

    Great photo of GOP’s carressing their fat wallets!

  5. DontTread says:

    When it comes to this vote, if you are a conservative and you don’t understand the issues extending from a fiat currency administered by the federal reserve, you will vote for Romney, Gingrich, or Santorum. If you are aware then there is little to disagree on. It just becomes a matter of facts and action. Every issue we face is an extension of this problem. It takes 10 minutes to draw the connections. It takes one vote to solve the problem.

  6. G Dog says:

    Love the picture of the Marx Brothers saying the Pledge to the Flag.

  7. Bill Janklow says:

    Who does Obami hate? Oh thats right the 1%! You know those evil rich bast*rds who are ruining the world. The one he preaches against day after day. He wants them to spread their wealth……to fund his campaign…..Liberals are all full of s**t. He wants all the wealth to be spread….to his reelection bid. People are sheeple…..

  8. G Dog says:

    Typing while drunk again Bill??

  9. what!?! says:

    The money is behind Romney so he will get the GOP nod .. So in the end it’s all going to come down to the lesser of two evils. Obama(who has tons of cash) vs Romney(who also has tons of cash).. Unfortunately this is the world we live in where elections are nothing but b.s. It all comes down to money. nothing more and nothing less

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