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Romney, Santorum battle for Minn.

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri will vote for presidential candidates today, and while Mitt Romney is favored to win, many conservatives appear eager to signal their unease with him by voting for Rick Santorum.

Social conservatives are particularly active in Minnesota, where one poll has Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, in a virtual tie with the former senator from Pennsylvania.

"Caucus attendees here tend to gravitate to the most conservative candidate," said former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Romney supporter. Santorum has been emphasizing family and faith, painting himself as the race's true staunch conservative.

Santorum questioned Romney's conservative credentials Monday, while the Romney camp painted Santorum as aggressively spending federal money during his Senate years.

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic survey firm, found Santorum ahead of Romney by 29 to 27 percent in its Saturday poll, and called the race a toss-up. Not far behind were Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, with 22 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, at 19 percent. Paul has campaigned hard in the state; Gingrich has made little effort.

Colorado's caucuses are less of a risk for Romney. He has a strong state organization and has campaigned hard there in recent days, while Gingrich and Santorum aren't as well organized.

Missouri also will vote today, albeit in a nonbinding primary that will select no delegates to the Republican National Convention. They'll be selected later.

No go in Virginia: The lawsuit by four Republican presidential candidates challenging Virginia's ballot access law is dead. A federal judge in Richmond granted Gingrich's request to drop him from the case Monday. Gingrich was the last remaining plaintiff after the judge previously granted requests to drop Santorum, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman from the case. Perry and Huntsman have ended their presidential bids. The candidates sued after failing to submit enough valid signatures to qualify for Virginia's GOP primary on March 6.

OBAMA BACKS SUPER PAC: Fearing a tide of spending by outside conservative groups, President Barack Obama is giving his blessing to a pro-Democratic Party "super PAC" that will work to help his re-election, his campaign said late Monday. Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a message to supporters that Obama will throw his support to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC founded by two former White House aides that has been unable to match its conservative rivals in fundraising.

Information from the Associated Press and Washington Post was used in this report.

Romney, Santorum battle for Minn. 02/06/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 12:26am]
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