Courted by candidates, Minn. GOP voters study up 07 Feb 12

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Normally overlooked, Minnesota Republicans are reveling in a chance to sway a party presidential nominating contest.

Tuesday night’s caucuses were on the radar of all the major contenders.

Party faithful prepared to register their preferences in a straw ballot that won’t bind any of the 40 national convention delegates. But it offered plenty of symbolic importance. Coming off back-to-back wins, front-runner Mitt Romney hoped contests in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado would add more distance from a chase pack of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.

The foursome gave Minnesota voters personal attention with a host of visits in the last week. Signs were pointing to a closer margin than Romney’s 2008 runaway win in Minnesota over eventual GOP nominee John McCain.

By BRIAN BAKST and PATRICK CONDON Associated Press

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)