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Up next: A lull in the Republican presidential nominating race

Now we begin a lull in the Republican presidential nominating contest.

Four years ago Florida gave John McCain a big burst of momentum heading into "Super Tuesday" seven days later when two dozen states weighed in. This time Super Tuesday is not until March 6 and includes only 11 states.

The slower pace of February provides little incentive for underdog candidates to drop out but also sets the potential for Mitt Romney to drive home his front-runner status with a series of low-profile victories though the month.

Nevada kicks off this new phase with caucuses Saturday. Romney is favored, partly because of the significant Mormon population in the Silver State, but Ron Paul also has been organizing aggressively there. Maine's caucuses start Saturday and run until Feb. 11. On Feb. 7, Colorado and Minnesota hold contests.

Arizona and Michigan vote Feb. 28. The Republican National Committee cut their delegate totals in half for violating the national party's sanctioned primary schedule, just as it did for Florida.

It takes 1,144 delegates to win the nomination, and by the end of February only about 300 delegates will have been at stake. Even with a prohibitive front-runner, this race could go awhile.

Up next: A lull in the Republican presidential nominating race 01/31/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 11:16am]

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