Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri: 3 things to know

Another round of states vote for their Republican candidate.

In the latest round of the Republican primary race today, a total 76 delegates are at stake: 36 in Colorado and 40 in Minnesota. The Missouri primary election is also taking place; however the state's failure to adhere to party rules on scheduling means its 52 delegates will be awarded in a separate caucus on 17 March. Mitt Romney is currently ahead with 81 delegate votes to Newt Gingrich's 27, Rick Santorum's 15 and Ron Paul's seven. Yet the voting behaviour of the residents in these deeply conservative states is expected to show no correlation to how the votes currently stand.

It is important to note the "types" of Republicans taking to the ballot box today: moreso than in other areas of the US, residents of Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri identify as being "very" conservative, and a large proportion are Tea Party members and Evangelicals.

Colorado caucuses (36 delegates)

This key battleground state was won comfortably by Romney in the previous Republican candidate race: it is particularly interesting to compare the results of the 2008 Republican presidential primary here between its candidates John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. Then-Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney won the state (and its full 22 delegates) with 60 per cent of the vote: three times that of the eventual nominee, John McCain.

Yet the frontrunner appears to be on the defensive. Earlier today, the Romney campaign released a memo by its political director, Rich Beeson, in which he wrote, under the headline "The Reality of February":

It is difficult to see what Governor Romney's opponents can do to change the dynamics of the race in February. No delegates will be awarded on February 7 -- Colorado and Minnesota hold caucuses with nonbinding preference polls, and the Missouri primary is purely a beauty contest. Except for the Maine and Wyoming nonbinding caucuses running through February, the next contests are on February 28 in states where Governor Romney is strong. Arizona's 29 delegates will be bound in a winner-take-all contest. Michigan, the state where Governor Romney grew up, binds 30 delegates.

This disregard for the worth of Colorado's vote points to the changed perception of Romney in the state. During the 2008 race, Romney was seen in Minnesota and Colorado as the more conservative candidate relative to John McCain; in 2012, he appears liberal alongside Rick Santorum.

Missouri primary (no delegates; 52 delegates on 17 March caucuses)

Speaking to residents of Hannibal, Missouri four days ago, Santorum boldly said:

When we go head to head with Governor Romney, we can beat him. When Speaker Gingrich goes head to head with Governor Romney, he can't. The polls show it and it will show on Tuesday . . . If I'm out of the race, most of my votes go to Governor Romney. If he's [Gingrich] out of the race, most of his votes go to me.

And Public Policy Polling had good news for the Santorum campaign:

Missouri looks like a probable win for Santorum. He's at 45% there to 32% for Mitt Romney and 19% for Paul. Minnesota provides an opportunity for a win as well. Currently he has a small advantage with 33% to 24% for Romney, 22% for Newt Gingrich, and 20% for Ron Paul. And Santorum should get a second place finish in Colorado, where Romney appears to be the likely winner.

This seemingly-sudden propulsion in the race is down to Santorum's popularity among voters here: his favourability comes in over 70 per cent -- far higher than Romney's in the 50s and Newt Gingrich, who wavers around 48 per cent. Gingrich will not participate in the Missouri primary, having missed the filing deadline. He has just announced, however, that his campaign is in for the long-haul: running at least until the Republican National Convention which takes place in Tampa the week beginning 27 August.

As Richard Adams recognised in the Guardian's election blog, for the first time the four candidate will be in present in four different states by the time votes are counted this evening: Santorum in Missouri; Romney in Colorado; Gingrich in Ohio and Ron Paul in Minnesota.

Minnesota caucuses (40 delegates)

Further numbers from Public Policy Polling in this deeply conservative northern state have Santorum ten points ahead of both Romney and Gingrich. However, as Mark Blumenthal at the Huffington Post notes:

The three PPP polls also found that a third or more of the voters in the three states say they might still "end up supporting someone else," rather than their first choice -- 31 percent in Colorado, 35 percent in Minnesota and 38 percent in Missouri. That result, which the PPP release characterized as indicating an "unusually volatile" race, may indicate the potential for further change or simply reflect that many have already changed their minds, perhaps more than once in recent weeks.

Still, as it currently appears, Santorum could very well wake up tomorrow having won two further states and been placed second in a third. That would grant him three victories from the eight states that have voted so far, and an unexpected surge at this stage in the race.

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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In focusing on the famous few, we risk doing a disservice to all victims of child sexual abuse

There is a danger that we make it harder, not easier, for victims to come forward in future. 

Back in the 1970s when relations between journalists and police were somewhat different to today a simple ritual would be carried out around the country at various times throughout the week.

Reporters, eager for information for their regional newspaper, would take a trip to the local station and there would be met by a desk sergeant who would helpfully skim through details in the crime Incident Book.

Among the entries about petty thefts, burglaries and road accidents there would occasionally be a reference to an allegation of incest. And at this point the sergeant and journalist might well screw-up their faces, shake their heads and swiftly move on to the next log. The subject was basically taboo, seen as something ‘a bit mucky,’ not what was wanted in a family newspaper.

And that’s really the way things stayed until 1986 when ChildLine was set up by Dame Esther Rantzen in the wake of a BBC programme about child abuse. For the first time children felt able to speak out about being sexually assaulted by the very adults whose role in life was to protect them.

And for the first time the picture became clear about what incest really meant in many cases. It wasn’t simply a low level crime to be swept under the carpet in case it scratched people’s sensitivities. It frequently involved children being abused by members of their close family, repeatedly, over many years.

Slowly but surely as the years rolled on the NSPCC continued to press the message about the prevalence of child sexual abuse, while encouraging victims to come forward. During this time the corrosive effects of this most insidious crime have been painfully detailed by many of those whose lives have been derailed by it. And of course the details of the hundreds of opportunistic sexual assaults committed by Jimmy Savile have been indelibly branded onto the nation’s consciousness.

It’s been a long road - particularly for those who were raped or otherwise abused as children and are now well into their later years - to bring society around to accepting that this is not to be treated as a dark secret that we really don’t want to expose to daylight. Many of those who called our helpline during the early days of the Savile investigation had never told anyone about the traumatic events of their childhoods despite the fact they had reached retirement age.

So, having buried the taboo, we seem to be in danger of giving it the kiss of life with the way some cases of alleged abuse are now being perceived.

It’s quite right that all claims of sexual assault should be investigated, tested and, where there is a case, pursued through the judicial system. No one is above the law, whether a ‘celebrity’ or a lord.

But we seem to have lost a sense of perspective when it comes to these crimes with vast resources being allocated to a handful of cases while many thousands of reported incidents are virtually on hold.

The police should never have to apologise for investigating crimes and following leads. However, if allegations are false or cannot be substantiated they should say so. This would be a strength not a weakness.

It is, of course, difficult that in many of the high-profile cases of recent times the identities of those under investigation have not been officially released by the police but have come to light through other means. Yet we have to deal with the world as it is not as we wish it would be and once names are common knowledge the results of the investigations centring on them should be made public.

When it emerges that someone in the public eye is being investigated for non-recent child abuse it obviously stirs the interest of the media whose appetite can be insatiable. This puts pressure on the police who don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past by allowing offenders to slip through their hands.  And so there is a danger, as has been seen in recent cases, that officers lack confidence in declaring there is a lack of evidence or the allegations are not true. 

The disproportionate weight of media attention given to say, Sir Edward Heath, as opposed to the Bradford grooming gang sentenced this week, shows there is a danger the pendulum is swinging too far the other way. This threatens the painstaking work invested in ensuring the public and our institutions recognise child abuse as a very real danger. 

Whilst high profile cases have helped the cause there is now a real risk that the all-encompassing focus on them does both victims of abuse and those advocating on their behalf a fundamental disservice.

As the public watches high -profile cases collapsing amidst a media fanfare genuine convictions made across the country week in week out go virtually unannounced. If this trend continues they may start to believe that child sexual abuse isn’t the prolific problem we know it to be.

So, while detectives peer into the mists of time, searching for long lost clues, we have to face the unpalatable possibility that offences being committed today will in turn only be investigated fully in years or decades' time because there is not the manpower to deal with them right now.

So, now the Goddard Inquiry is in full swing, taking evidence about allegations of child sex crimes involving ‘well known people’ as well as institutional abuse, how do we ensure we don’t fail today’s victims?

If they start to think their stories are going to be diminished by the continuing furore over how some senior public figures have been treated by the police they will stay silent. Therefore we have to continue to encourage them to come forward, to give them the confidence of knowing they will be listened to.

If we don’t we will find ourselves back in those incestuous days where people conspired to say and do nothing to prevent child abuse.

Peter Wanless is Chief Executive of the NSPCC.