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Today's GOP contests: Do-or-die time for Santorum

Do-or-die time for Santorum… And further breaking down tonight’s contests in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri.

Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks about healthcare, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, in Rochester, Minn.

*** Do-or-die time for Santorum: While they haven't received the same kind of attention as the other early nominating contests, today's races in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri are worth keeping in mind for three reasons. First, they have more projected delegates at stake -- a combined 76 (40 in Minnesota, 36 in Colorado, and zero in Missouri, whose delegates will be determined a later date) -- than all the combined delegates for Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Second, they all occur in presidential battleground states. And third, they give Mitt Romney's challengers, particularly Rick Santorum, the opportunity to upset Romney. Indeed, if Santorum is going to make a serious move now, it's going to come in one of the caucus contests, where either a more conservative or better organized candidate can pull off a victory. Bottom line: It’s do-or-die time for Santorum, and he needs to win two of these three races (Minnesota and the beauty contest of Missouri) to keep his White House chances alive. By the way, today is going to be a tough day for Newt Gingrich; the only question is whether he’ll finish third or fourth in all three. There’s a reason why he’s in Ohio today…


Republican presidential hopefuls have been campaigning in advance of contests Tuesday in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri with a total of 70 delegates up for grabs. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.

*** Breaking down tonight’s Colorado caucuses: Per NBC’s John Bailey, Colorado’s caucuses work very similarly to Iowa’s. Starting at 9:00 pm ET (7:00 pm local time), Republicans will gather at nearly 3,000 locations across the state to participate in a presidential-preference straw poll conducted by secret paper ballot. The results are then counted, announced to the caucus, and called into county headquarters. Results will be posted beginning at about 10:30 pm ET at http://results.cologop.org/. The state party hopes to have the statewide results totaled and compiled by 12:30 am or 1:00 am ET. At stake are 36 delegates. But just like in Iowa, the delegates to attend the national convention in Tampa will be elected at subsequent state and congressional-district assemblies and conventions. In 2008, slightly more than 70,000 Republicans turned out in Colorado’s caucuses.

*** Breaking down tonight’s Minnesota caucuses: Minnesota, NBC’s Bailey adds, works very similarly to Iowa and Colorado. All caucuses start at 8:00 pm ET (7:00 pm local time). They elect caucus leadership and then conduct the preference poll. In 2008, about 65,000 Republicans turned out, and the party hopes to have similar turnout this time. Unlike the other states, Minnesota’s caucuses report their results to the secretary of state. The state party estimates results will begin being posted on the secretary of state’s website at about 9:00 pm ET (8:00PM CT). Forty delegates are at stake, but like in Colorado and Iowa, Minnesota will actually choose the individuals who will go to Tampa at its later conventions.

*** Breaking down tonight’s Missouri primary (which is really a beauty contest): Today’s primary in Missouri is nonbinding – essentially a beauty contest – and its delegates will be awarded at a later date. But that hasn’t stopped the pro-Santorum Red, White, and Blue Fund Super PAC from running advertisements in the Show Me State.

*** On the 2012 trail: Romney holds a rally in Loveland, CO… Santorum also hits a rally in Colorado, in Colorado Springs, before heading to an event in Blaine, MN… And Gingrich campaigns in Ohio.