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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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.