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Battleground States Caucuses, Primary Under Way

Aired February 7, 2012 - 21:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The presidential race has been won by Governor Ronald Reagan of California.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor Clinton is now President Bill Clinton.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Here it is, George W. Bush re-elected.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Barack Obama, president-elect of the United States.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The Republican contests in three states tonight. Results are just starting to come in.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And we could see an upset in the heartland.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the Republican candidates compete on three battlegrounds at once.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president has failed, that's why he has to go. And we need a new president.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It isn't got enough to nominate Obama light.

ANNOUNCER: This could be a moment when the underdogs steal the show.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not a household name like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sounds like the revolution has already come to Minnesota.

ANNOUNCER: Could there be a dramatic upset? In Minnesota, Colorado or Missouri?

It's AMERICA'S CHOICE. Mitt Romney has been on a winning streak. But his momentum could stall again.

ROMNEY: I will stand for our rights and I'll stand for our values.

ANNOUNCER: Newt Gingrich is angry and determined to hit Romney where it hurts.

GINGRICH: I have never before seen a person who I thought was a serious candidate for president be that fundamentally dishonest.

ANNOUNCER: Rick Santorum and Ron Paul may be Romney's biggest threats tonight.

SANTORUM: Money is not going to buy the presidency.

PAUL: Once you become a Ron Paul supporter, you remain a Ron Paul supporter.

ANNOUNCER: Who might surge? Or stumble? Once the results are in tonight?

SANTORUM: The contrast between Obama and Romney is just not going to work for us.

ANNOUNCER: All four candidates are signaling a bitter fight to the finish.

GINGRICH: I am a candidate for the president of the United States. I will be a candidate for the president of the United States.

ANNOUNCER: Three states are voting. Big contests are around the corner. And this race is spreading all over the map.


BLITZER: This could be a suspenseful night in the Republican presidential race. Right now, caucuses are getting under way in Colorado, when we're getting the first results from contests in Missouri and Minnesota.

Let's go to the vote boards right now, see what we have. First in Minnesota. Two percent of the vote is actually in. Very, very early. But look at this, Rick Santorum with 49 percent, Ron Paul, second with 22 percent, Mitt Romney, third, 15 percent, Newt Gingrich, fourth, 14 percent.

Once again, very, very early. Four percent of the vote is in in Missouri. Look at this. Rick Santorum ahead, 51 percent. You saw it just changed, 8,304 votes to Mitt Romney's 28 percent, Ron Paul, 11 percent. Uncommitted, 6 percent. Newt Gingrich was not on the ballot in Missouri.

We're watching the caucuses unfold in Minnesota right now. We got our reporters standing by. David Mattingly in Stillwater, Minnesota, Shannon Travis in Maple Grove, Minnesota.

David, first to you, walk us through what's going on.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just this very second, there was a group here that were counting the ballots that were cast in this room. I want you to look around this room. You see about 40, 50 people here. I'm told that this is about double the number of people they normally have in this precinct.

Now they're going to be announcing the results of this precinct's vote. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of the straw vote?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We're just hanging on to that. We've got other business going on right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little discussion on that (INAUDIBLE) the motion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The way we're going to elect our delegates? OK. Very good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a motion to vote?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to vote -- we're going to vote on the method to be adopted. Yes. So all those in favor?

MATTINGLY: They're actually taking care of a little more party business right now before they get to those results, Wolf. But back to what I was saying, this room has about double the number of people in here than they typically have during a presidential cycle. And that could tell you about the enthusiasm in this district.

This is actually Michele Bachmann's congressional district. This is a blue spot in what typically has been a red state in the presidential elections. These are all Republicans. They may all have preference for different candidates but at this point they are all committed to seeing a Republican nominee in the general election. So we're just waiting right now to find out what this district, this conservative district, this precinct has decided for this go round in the presidential politics -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And so we're going to get the actual results of this precinct momentarily, David, is that what you're suggesting?

MATTINGLY: That's right. They're doing some other party business right now, going through some motions about other things that they need to do. They will be getting to those votes shortly, and we'll be sure to alert you when that happens.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by. We're -- right back to you as soon as we know.

I want to go to Shannon, he's in Maple Grove, Minnesota. You're at a door there. What's going on, Shannon?

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Yes, Wolf, at the top of the hour, you mentioned lots of suspense tonight. Suspenseful indeed. We're here at precinct 17 from Maple Grove. I want to take you back here, a short walk, but possibly a long process for these caucus-goers here. We're going to turn the corner and just listen in for a moment at what's going on. We know that some of the voters have actually put in some votes. Let's just take a moment to listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can talk about the precinct officers this summer who are going to be having a lot of activity in Maple Grove and I would like to have somebody --

TRAVIS: Wolf, those yellow ballots that you see going into that envelope, they're actually putting ballots into -- into the envelope and they're going to actually be counting them here in this room.

Joy, at the front of the room, is the convener of these caucuses. This is a rather small group, only a few people here, and they seem to be taking care of some local caucus issues right now. We're going to see if we can get a question in to the people about who might have been an undecided coming into this process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all right. Thank you, Dave.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. All in favor of Dave, say aye.

TRAVIS: They're voting on one of the issues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If that's OK, Dave, I guess --

TRAVIS: And Joy is nice enough -- Joy is the convener for this caucus site -- to allow me to interrupt just very briefly and ask the crowd here how many people were undecided coming into this room tonight? By a show of hands. Only a few people. So most of the people came in, didn't need any convincing from any of your spouses, neighbors, friends, family members, or anything?

OK. All right. We're going to step out of the way and let Joy continue with the caucus. Thank you for letting us interrupt.

BLITZER: Ask her -- ask her when they're going to read the vote total.

TRAVIS: One last question, Joy, from Wolf Blitzer on right now. When do you expect to read the vote total? What --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've taken it already and we have a crew. And one person represents each candidate and they're on their way right now. So within three minutes.

TRAVIS: Within three minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And have you counted --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It won't take long. We have like 30 people here.

TRAVIS: Pretty fast process. Pretty fast process there, Wolf.

BLITZER: Are they going to do it --


TRAVIS: They expect to have this day wrapped up.

BLITZER: Are they going to do it where you are in that room?

TRAVIS: No. No, they're going to put them in the envelope that you saw they put those paper piper ballots into, and they're going to do it in the other room, an auditorium, which is just a few feet away from here.

BLITZER: All right. So we won't be able to see them actually count the ballots, is that what you're saying?

TRAVIS: That's right. Not in this actual room. In the other room, adjoining -- across the hall from this one.

BLITZER: Yes. And you can't go there with your camera and you watch them count the ballots? Because I'd love to see that if we can do that.

TRAVIS: Absolutely. We're going to go over to the other room once all of the different precincts have assembled and try and bring you some of that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, good. All right. Stand by, see -- see what you can do. I love seeing democracy in action in Minnesota, Maple Grove where you are, Shannon. Stand by for that.

I want to go back to David Mattingly.

David, give us an update on where it stands where you are in Stillwater.

MATTINGLY: This is -- this is really great, Wolf. You're right. This is democracy in action. What we're seeing right now, this is one precinct out of eight that is meeting at this school and casting their votes. We watched them count the votes from one precinct. They're going around right now to the other seven groups that have scattered across the school. They're going to collect all of those votes and announce them all at once.

We could be just a matter of minutes away from finding out how eight different precincts here in this part of Minnesota have voted in the straw poll for president. We'll be sure to let you know when they come back in the room to do that. BLITZER: And we'll be able to get -- maybe hear the voting as it come up -- as it unfolds, right? Hopefully we'll be able to hear that live.

All right, David, thanks very much.

I want to check back and see what the votes are right now in Missouri. Look at this. Eight percent of the vote is now in. This is a dramatic development. If it holds, still a big if, 50 percent right now, 16,747 for Rick Santorum, 28 percent for Mitt Romney, almost 9500. Ron Paul, third, 12 percent, almost 4,000, uncommitted, 6 percent, remember, Newt Gingrich not on the ballot in Missouri.

But Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, doing very well in Missouri right now. He's doing very well so far, very early in the process, in Minnesota. We don't have any numbers yet from Colorado. They're just beginning their caucuses in Colorado. But this could be a very, very huge upset if in fact this were to hold out, we would see what that would mean going in.

I want go back to Colorado right now. Jim Spellman is over in Castle Pine I think -- Castle Rock, that's where you are right now.

Paul (INAUDIBLE) Cameron is joining us from Aurora, Colorado. That's outside of Denver.

Jim Spellman, first to you, what's going on, the caucuses under way in Colorado right now?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The caucusers here have just finished voting. They've just finished out -- finish filling out their ballots. Follow the ballots right in here where they're going to be counted.

Wolf, it only took about two minutes for everybody in this room here to fill out their ballots. Definitely extremely exciting for everybody.

Guys, is this the voting right here, the counting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the counting.

SPELLMAN: Now how many of the precincts do you have there?


SPELLMAN: Just 259?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct.

SPELLMAN: Precinct 259, Wolf, that's the precinct that we just watched vote.

Are you going to go ahead and count them right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we are. SPELLMAN: And Wolf, you can take a look here, this is the tally sheet where they will -- going to, you know, add up how many votes. And you can see here, still, the names for the candidates that are no longer in the race, still on here, just in case any of those people did vote for it. There's one stack, we got one for Newt Gingrich, one for Mitt Romney, here's the Ron Paul pile, about three there, and Rick Santorum is the final pile on the left.

It's pretty low tech, Wolf. But looks pretty effective so far. Don't see any confusing ballots. Everybody has clearly circled who they're going for. A lot of -- a lot of Mitt Romney votes coming in here on this ballot.

We also have right over here, these are bell watchers from various candidates. Who are you with, ladies?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're for Mitt Romney.


SPELLMAN: Great. And you're here to be sure or what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just want to see the process. We went to the rally last night. Just wanted to see how it all worked. Printed up my representative information and wanted to just see what it was all about.

SPELLMAN: Do you see any irregularities so far?


SPELLMAN: All right. Let's come back over here and see how the -- how the tallying is going.

BLITZER: All right. Jim, hold on for a minute. They're going to count the votes. We're going to come right back to you. But I want to go back to David Mattingly in Stillwater, Minnesota.

They're counting the votes over there, right, David?

MATTINGLY: They have counted them. They're compiling them right now. It's happening right here in front of us. The votes that were taken in this room and then seven other groups around this school that are broken up into their own different precincts. They are preparing to announce what those results are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anybody have any resolutions?

MATTINGLY: And I'm looking away to see what they're doing here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If there's any other business to come before -- yes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. MATTINGLY: As you see, Wolf, this is all a very informal process. They've got their procedures, they've got their rules. But again it's a bunch of neighbors and friends getting together, all like-minded, all pushing the Republican agenda. And all behind particular candidates.

And I just heard a motion to adjourn. They're going to allow them to go before the final results are posted here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for participating in the process.

MATTINGLY: And that's it. Wolf, these people are going to be going home tonight unless they want to stand around and wait to see how the final results were for everyone who are staying here. And we're going to have those results for you, I'm told, soon. It just isn't going to be read out loud to this room.

So, again, we're going to be coming back to you as soon as we have some hard numbers for you.

BLITZER: Can you ask her when they're going to actually give us the vote tally in that district?

MATTINGLY: It should be minutes away. They've collected those and it's just a matter of compiling all eight of those and putting them on some kind of poster board or something up on the wall where it could happen.

BLITZER: So they're not going to read it aloud to the folks there, is that right?

MATTINGLY: No. They didn't want to keep people here any longer than they wanted to stay. The people that can stay and wait and see the final results are going to be allowed to do that. But right now, you can see, they're putting their chairs away. This evening of democracy in action is pretty much done for the people of this district. They're going to be going back back home and talking about their straw ballot. Again not binding but later tonight, people are going to be looking how groups just like this, meeting in places just like this, very informally sat down, decided who they want to see as Republican nominee.

And as those numbers are compiled, the candidates are going to be watching very closely to see who comes away with the bragging rights to say, I was the favorite tonight in Minnesota -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, David Mattingly, in Stillwater, Minnesota.

Jim Spellman is in Castle Rock, in Colorado, where they're -- they're actually counting votes where you are right now? Have they finished?

SPELLMAN: They're counting votes right now. We have -- what do we have here so far? Who's got 19?


SPELLMAN: Rick Santorum, 19 votes so far. There are about 48, I believe, people in this caucus, between 45 and 50. So we have 19 for Rick Santorum. It doesn't appear that any of the stray candidates that have dropped out received any votes at this point, Wolf.

We should hear in just a matter of minutes, have this final tally, then they'll take their vote back into the caucus room and they're going to write it on the board in the front of the classroom and let everybody there know who won.

It looks like a pretty tight race between -- yes, 18 votes for Mitt Romney, 19 votes for Rick Santorum. They're counting Newt Gingrich's votes right now.


SPELLMAN: Six for Newt Gingrich. And our final tally here is for the Ron Paul ballots here. And eight for Ron Paul. So that's eight for Ron Paul, six for Newt Gingrich, 18 for Mitt Romney, and 19 for Rick Santorum. A good night for Rick Santorum here in the 259th precinct, the GOP caucus in Colorado -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's one precinct out of many. But it's interesting to watch it unfold.

Jim Spellman is in Castle Rock.

And here are some numbers that very, very early. You can see how early it is. This is what he just reported. These are the numbers that just came in from Castle Rock. So he got 19 for Rick Santorum, 18 for Mitt Romney, eight for Ron Paul, six for Newt Gingrich.

So these are the first votes in the Colorado caucuses that have actually came in. You saw it live here in -- on CNN. You saw these votes, these are the first votes in Colorado. But there are going to be a lot, lot more.

We're going to go back to Minnesota, go back to Missouri. We've got more numbers coming in. Much more of our special coverage, potentially an upset in the making on this day, where there are three contests. We're watching it together with you. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN Election Center watching the votes coming in, Minnesota, Missouri, Colorado.

In Minnesota first, 3 percent of the votes in, still very early. But Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who needs a win badly, he is way ahead right now. Only 3 percent of the vote in, 46- 24 percent for Ron Paul, only 18 percent for Mitt Romney, 12 percent for Newt Gingrich.

Still early in the process but looks potentially Rick Santorum could have a very good night in Minnesota. He's worked hard there. But let's take a look at Missouri right now. Thirteen percent of the vote in Missouri is in. Once again, look at Rick Santorum, the -- former Pennsylvania senator, 52 percent to only 27 percent for Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, 12 percent, uncommitted, 5 percent. Newt Gingrich didn't make the ballot in Missouri. But that he's 12,963 ahead, ahead of Mitt Romney, 27,100 or so for Rick Santorum, only 14,000 or so for Mitt Romney.

You see the purple counties there in Missouri. It's looking like a good night for Rick Santorum in Missouri and Minnesota. We're watching all of this unfold.

Let's take a look at some of the caucus cameras that we have throughout the state. I want to bring in our correspondents who are there. David Mattingly is in Minnesota, in Stillwater. Shannon Travis is in Maple Grove, Minnesota.

Let's go to Shannon first. Shannon, tell us what's happening in Maple Grove.

TRAVIS: Hey there, yes, Wolf. I mean they're still caucusing here in Maple Grove in this junior high. We've been basically walking in the hallways, ducking our heads in and out of different caucus sites, seeing what's going on, seeing if they voted. We found one room that is done with their voting, it's precinct 18. We will take you inside. Again part of our whole democracy in process.

Seems like they're talking about a few things. Now sorry to interrupt, folks. We talked to John a little bit earlier. John is convening this caucus and John has some vote totals for us.

John, would you like to reveal those live on TV?

JOHN, MINNESOTA CAUCUS: Yes, sure. We've got 12 votes for Ron Paul.


JOHN: We've got 12 votes for Rick Santorum.


JOHN: We have six votes for Newt Gingrich.


JOHN: And 15 votes for Mr. Romney, Governor Romney.


TRAVIS: So Governor Romney won here in this particular precinct. Governor Romney hasn't actively campaigned in Minnesota that much.

Can I get a Romney supporter, anyone here? One of the people that voted for Mitt Romney? No one wants to say right now? OK. OK. We spoke with you earlier. Apparently a few shy people don't want to talk about the numbers that are actually on there. But those are some of the raw numbers that are making up the results that you're seeing there back at headquarters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Love seeing that. All right. Thanks very much, Shannon.

Let's go back to David Mattingly in Stillwater.

You got some numbers over there, David? What happened?

MATTINGLY: That's right, Wolf, we have the numbers from inside this room, and you were talking about Rick Santorum having a big night in some parts of the state. He had a very big night in this room with this one precinct that was voting in here. You see the few people that are still here. It's all over but the paperwork right now.

This is how it shakes out. Four for Newt Gingrich, 15 for Paul, seven for Romney and 22 for Santorum. So that's just one precinct in Minnesota. That was just one precinct going on in this room. As you can see, there's still other groups still working, still expressing their opinion about who they believe should be the Republican nominee. So, stay tuned -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I don't know if they have microphones there, David. Can we hear what they're saying right now?

MATTINGLY: Let's walk in closer. Let's walk in closer. We're going to get a microphone in close so you can hear what they're talking about. I can't hear it from where I'm standing but we're going to get a little closer here for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just go by the first name or --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a good question.

MATTINGLY: It sounds like they're just taking care of regular party business, making sure everyone's names are correct on the records, making sure everything is happening the way it's supposed to tonight. Now this is all very, very casual. You're so used to in political or in presidential elections, watching the ads where people are calling each other names and raising issues that really unsettle you.

Here, it was a very reassuring type of thing to see so many people, friends and neighbors getting together. Maybe they didn't have a lot in common except maybe just their political views and they're all here tonight to decide who they want to see as the Republican nominee. And they're writing something up on the board right now. Is that the tally? No. Those are the delegates.

They've selected delegates for the state convention. That's what they've been going through right now. So we're just a little bit away from finding out exactly how those votes shook out here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I love the low tech process under way in Minnesota right now. All right. Thanks very much, David. I want to go to Colorado. Top of the hour, the caucuses started there. We got some initial results coming in. Jim Spellman is in Castle Rock. Paul (INAUDIBLE) is in aurora.

Let's go to Paul.

You're first. What's happening where you are?

You know, they just handed out the ballots and we've had pretty some quick counts right here. We're in Arapaho County, by the way, Wolf, which is a bellwether. It's evenly divided between Republicans, Democrats and independents.

So here are some early results. Let's go to table 421 which you are looking at right now. They went five for Mitt Romney, and two for Rick Santorum. Another precinct, number 423, this is all Arapaho County, we had four for Gingrich, and we also had 15 for Romney, 1 for Paul and 1 for Santorum.

A third precinct, 419, Arapaho County, six for Gingrich, eight for Romney, and 10 for Santorum. So all the candidates being represented to a degree here so far. Twenty-two precincts in all in Aurora, Colorado, meeting tonight. Again in that bellwether county in Arapaho.

As you know independents very important in Colorado. They make up one million, almost 200,000 voters in Colorado. So many of the Republicans here have said not only do we need to hold our ground and come out in force in November, but we've got to convince some of these independents to come our way.

Let's talk to a Santorum supporter really quickly.

You voted for Santorum tonight. What do you like about him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a very strong conservative and probably more conservative than the rest of the candidates.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And you're -- thank you very much for your opinion. You're a Romney supporter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You bet. I want him to beat Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And what do you like about Romney?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's honest. I think he's a good businessman and I think he can help us turn especially Obamacare around.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you for your insights.

There you have it, Wolf. Just sort of a smattering of opinions here in Aurora, Colorado. That bellwether county. We'll see how things go further on tonight. Now back to you.

BLITZER: Yes, these are real focus groups because these are actual people who are voting. I love hearing from them, Paul. Thanks very much.

Jim Spellman is in Castle Rock, Colorado as well.

What's -- where does the process stand there, Jim?

SPELLMAN: Wolf, I've come to the next classroom over here at Buffalo Ridge Elementary. This is precinct 258, 258. They've just completed counting the ballots. They put them in this Ziploc bag. This is -- will get sent ultimately to the state office in case there's any irregularities. This is what they're going to refer to. They've just finished counting so, Gary Leskosky here, one of the Republican officials is about to make the announcement of the tally.

Go ahead, Gary.

GARY LESKOSKY, REPUBLICAN OFFICIAL: OK. The results of our straw poll ballot. Mitt Romney, 18 votes, Rick Santorum, nine votes, and Ron Paul, two votes. And that's a total of 29 votes so.

SPELLMAN: No votes for Newt Gingrich?

LESKOSKY: There were zero votes for Newt Gingrich.

SPELLMAN: There you go. Mitt Romney winning in precinct 258, Wolf, Rick Santorum in 259, Mitt Romney in 258. I think it might be a close call between those two here in this community -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Jim Spellman in Castle Rock, Colorado.

I want to update you what's going on in Missouri right now because it looks like potentially a significant upset in the works right now. Rick Santorum with 17 percent of the actual vote in way ahead, way ahead of Mitt Romney, 52 percent to 27 percent for Mitt Romney, 12 percent for Ron Paul, 5 percent uncommitted, Newt Gingrich didn't make the ballot in Missouri.

But looks like a very good night for Rick Santorum in Missouri.

Dana Bash is over at Rick Santorum headquarters. She's joining us now.

You're in St. Charles, Missouri, is that right, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I'm here. I just want to make sure you can hear me, Wolf. I'm here in St. Charles -- in St. Charles, Missouri. This where is Rick Santorum chose to spend his night, and as you can see and is even reporting, there's a good reason for it. Because he has felt that he would do very well here.

Now obviously it is early and we don't know what it's going to turn out at the end of the evening but he already is feeling pretty good according to aides I've talked to. He's already here at this facility, watching the returns, and you can see behind me people are -- are coming into the ballroom. We should emphasize that the results here tonight really mean zero in terms of the delegates that Rick Santorum will get because none are awarded tonight. But this very much for the Santorum campaign is -- would be a moral victory if he were able to beat Mitt Romney in this state because not only is it an important state on a general election, but more importantly for him in this primary season, he was looking for a head-to -head matchup between himself and Mitt Romney without Newt Gingrich in the way, to be able to make this point that he is a real conservative in this race.

He is the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. So if he can do that here, they hope that that will really help in terms of giving him momentum and also putting some money in the bank for him to keep going.

BLITZER: Looks like a big night for Rick Santorum. Any idea, Dana, when we are going to hear from the candidate behind you?

BASH: We were told probably around 10:00 Eastern. But I think a lot of that depends, frankly, Wolf, on how quickly we get the results in and how comfortable he feels in his standing, not only here in Missouri, but also in Colorado and Minnesota.

BLITZER: Looks like it's going to be a good night for Rick Santorum. It's going to get very noisy where you are. You might want to get a hand-held microphone so we'll be able to hear you once they start screaming over there, Dana. We'll come back to you.

BASH: I have one, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you do. Stand by for that.

Anderson, I want to go back to you. You know, it sounds corny, Anderson, but every time we see these little actions, these caucuses unfold, democracy in action -- as we're speaking, people are dying in Syria because they would like to have a caucus. They'd like to have a primary. They can't have one.

We're having ours here in the United States. Let's just keep some perspective on what's going on.

COOPER: Yes. We did have the breaking news tonight. The U.S. now reviewing options for Syria, looking forward possible -- any kind of military options, whether -- unlikely it would be some sort of a strike. But perhaps one option would be arming the Free Syrian Army. Again, just beginning to explore options right now.

Ari, you've been talking to some Santorum people or hearing what Santorum may talk about tonight.

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, I started talking to them earlier in the week. And they've been feeling pretty good about Missouri for several days now. In fact, this was planned for Rick Santorum to be in Missouri for tonight, the fact that Newt Gingrich is not on the ballot. They want to use that as the case to prove, going forward, that if you only let us get Mitt Romney one-on- one, we can deliver a victory against Mitt Romney.

COOPER: That's been their message all along. This they say is proof of that.

FLEISCHER: This is a proof point.

The other interesting this is, in Rick Santorum's speech tonight, I'm told pay attention to what he's going to say in that. It is going to be different. He is only going to talk briefly about Mitt Romney. He's going to go a lot about Barack Obama.

He wants to show Republicans that he can make the case against Barack Obama better than Mitt Romney has, better than Newt Gingrich has. That's another reason they're saying keep your eye on Rick Santorum, give him a chance. He's the one who can take the campaign against Barack Obama better than anybody else.

COOPER: Donna Brazile, you look wistful.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I spend most of these nights listening to Republicans trash the president, of course, deny the success, all of the good things that he has done. That is fine. This is politics. We understand that.

Look, Rick Santorum has spent 22 days campaigning in these three states, nine days in Colorado, eight days in Minnesota and five days in Missouri. He's put a lot of face time. People have gotten to know him. He has spent a lot of money. So I wouldn't be surprised if he has a great result tonight.

One of the things we talked about is delegates. As you know, the rules on both sides allow that states begin their contest on March 6th. If you decide to start your contest, a caucus or a primary, prior to March 6th, you did not get the privilege of going early, then you're sanctioned.

So what they're doing tonight in these states -- I know CNN will allocate delegates -- they have decided to wait until sometime in mid- March before they allocate all the delegates on the Republican side.

COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. Our coverage continues in a moment. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Still very early in the process. But look at this; Rick Santorum I'm sure would be happy if it ended like this. It is not going to necessarily end like this.

But right now, let's go from Colorado to Minnesota to Missouri. We'll start in Colorado, very early. Only a few votes have been counted, one percent. But Rick Santorum ahead with 50 percent to 24 percent; Mitt Romney, 17 percent; nine percent for Ron Paul. You see only a few votes have actually been counted in Colorado. Those are going to change very quickly. In Minnesota, seven percent % of the vote in. But once again, Rick Santorum ahead with 43 percent; Ron Paul 27 percent; Mitt Romney 18 percent; Newt Gingrich 12 percent. Looks like a good night for Rick Santorum in Minnesota. But once again, only seven percent of the vote in.

In Missouri, 22 percent of the vote is in and also a very good night for Rick Santorum; 53 percent to 26 percent for Mitt Romney; 12 percent for Ron Paul; five percent uncommitted. Newt Gingrich didn't make the ballot in Missouri. But you see, 47,390 for Santorum to 23,000 or so for Mitt Romney.

Looks like a good night for Rick Santorum in Missouri and Minnesota. We'll see what happens in Colorado. I suspect Mitt Romney, who is in Colorado, is going to wind up doing a lot better than he is, with so far this very, very early count.

David Mattingly is in Minnesota, in Stillwater, Minnesota, with us. You have the votes in that precinct -- that caucus where you were, right?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We have results from seven of the eight precincts that were voting here. The caucus coordinator, Cindy Westrop (ph), has them here. She wrote them down on her pad. There are no computers here. She didn't even use a calculator to figure all this out.

Cindy, who won here tonight? What are the results?.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I'm really surprised. We have a game changer tonight. We have Newt Gingrich with 23; Ron Paul with 53 votes; Romney with 24; and Rick Santorum with 87.

MATTINGLY: So another good night for Rick Santorum, continuing at least with these precincts in this part of Minnesota.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what it looks like.

MATTINGLY: Now what did you notice with the crowd this year? You'd said -- I've heard that typically you had maybe 15 to 20 people in some of these individual rooms. But overall, how did you do tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we have a lot more people tonight. What's interesting is we have a lot of new people. People are wanting to come out. They want to support their candidates. They found out that in Minnesota, to get involved, you meet with your neighbors at precinct caucuses, and then you can make a difference. You vote for your candidate.

MATTINGLY: Do you think it was a particular candidate that might have been pushing them to get involved in the process, where they might not have done before? Or is this just something that happens here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It does happen. I did see it in 2008, where we had a lot of new people come out in support of a particular candidate. Tonight, we have a lot of new people again, but in support of two different candidates.

MATTINGLY: Earlier tonight, we were talking about how the election process in a lot of places is very impersonal. You go and fill out a computer ballot. You push a button and you're done. People here had to come. They had to talk about it. They had to see what each other was doing.

What was so different about this and what makes it better?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think it's wonderful in Minnesota, and especially we're having fun here in Stillwater, Minnesota, meeting with our neighbors on the precinct level. We get to talk about who we want for president tonight. We also get to talk about who we want to represent us among our neighbors. And we choose among our neighbors to be delegates and alternates at our next -- at the next level, which is the Senate District Convention.

We get to choose from our neighbors, which is nice. We know who we're talking to. They're sitting next to us. They live in the house next to us.

MATTINGLY: That's right. When all the neighbors got together, this -- these were the results. Wolf, a big night for Rick Santorum in this part of Minnesota.

BLITZER: All right. He's getting a big night in several other parts of Minnesota and Missouri and Colorado so far. We'll stay in close touch. Thank you very much.

Still early, John. But Rick Santorum could be upsetting a lot of folks tonight as we go forward. Looks like he is going to have a good night in these three states.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Folks at home, purple is Rick Santorum; the dark red is Governor Romney; this pinkish color here is Newt Gingrich. Iowa is decided already. But look at this: this is the not map Mitt Romney was expecting. They hoped at one point, Wolf, to run the board in February.

Today,, they concede that Rick Santorum will likely win one -- at least one of these two states. Again, Iowa is already decided, but Minnesota and Missouri are going tonight.

The Romney campaign is saying look, Missouri doesn't matter. We didn't spend any money there. No delegates were at stake tonight. But what Rick Santorum wants is momentum. If he wins in Missouri and wins Minnesota, he will have some momentum.

If he wins Colorado, he would be making a statement. That is a state Governor Romney carried handily. I just want to make clear, Santorum is ahead, but this doesn't -- it doesn't count. It's one percent of the vote counted here.

So we will watch how this one plays out. But if you look at the early map like this, this is very encouraging for Rick Santorum, who will be able to raise more money going into later states.

How is he doing it? You just had David Mattingly in Minnesota. You see right now, again, only seven percent of the vote, but he's filling it in pretty good. I just want to bring up a demographic for you. This is Evangelicals, right.

So we stretch out the map. In Iowa, a lot of Evangelicals support, Rick Santorum won the case. Good Evangelical vote in Minnesota, a excellent, large Evangelical vote in Missouri. Again, this primary is meaningless for delegates.

But if you look down here, this is the Bible Belt area, Minnesota down here. The community Joplin we all visited, of course, after the horrible tragedy back there in May -- Evangelical vote down here, Tea Party vote; Rick Santorum making a statement, Wolf, as we go forward. Again, we don't expect the map, especially out here in Colorado.

The Romney campaign is saying this: you know, Romney won Florida, just like John McCain won Florida four years ago. Many people after the Romney win said, well, now he's the all but certain nominee. The Romney campaign would make the case John McCain after that went on to lose 13 of the next 23 states.

They would say even if Santorum won them all tonight, it wouldn't be a disaster. But -- but -- but it would be a boost for Santorum, and especially the state of Colorado. That is the biggest prize tonight from Romney's standpoint. That's why he's there tonight, Wolf. We'll keep an eye on that.

BLITZER: John, I want you to stand by, because we have got some news that we're about to make right now. We are going to report some news.

And take a look at this: CNN now can make a projection, the first of three in the states that are having contests tonight. Rick Santorum, CNN projects. will win the Missouri primary. The former Pennsylvania senator, CNN projects, will win the Missouri primary.

They're watching CNN right now over at Rick Santorum headquarters in Colorado. Dana Bash is standing by. Dana, I hope you have that hand-held microphone.

BASH: I do. I'm sure you can hear me well. And you probably, perhaps more importantly, hear the people cheering behind me very well. They are very, very excited here in Missouri, because of the fact that this is something that Rick Santorum hasn't had, as you said, since the first of the five contests. And he had that belatedly.

This is something that the Santorum campaign said that they really thought was essential. They actually raised expectations pretty high, which is kind of something you don't do normally in politics. But they did today because they understand the feeling out there, that Rick Santorum needed a win, even if it is just a moral win, like you're seeing tonight. Because as we said many times, there are no actual delegates being allotted tonight here. But Newt Gingrich is not on the ballot. He is going to say, I am sure, when he comes to speak here in a little while that he is now seen as a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, because he beat Mitt Romney in a contest where Newt Gingrich was not here. And Newt Gingrich has not been able to do that.

BLITZER: It's interesting, because four years ago, Mitt Romney did very well in Missouri, not so well tonight. Rick Santorum, how active was he campaigning in Missouri? Looks like he is going to have a good night in Minnesota, and potentially -- this would be a huge upset if he wins in Colorado.

BASH: You bring up a really good and important point. Rick Santorum was campaigning here, not that hard because they have been going from state to state to state. But he was the only candidate who stepped foot in the state of Missouri. That's important to underscore. Mitt Romney was not here. Ron Paul was not here. And Newt Gingrich was not here.

So the fact is that he put all of his eggs in this basket. Again, at least symbolically, it paid off for Rick Santorum. The other states, the other candidates were and have been campaigning. So if Rick Santorum pulls it off in Minnesota and more importantly in Colorado, that would absolutely be huge, particularly because, as you said, Mitt Romney did very well four years ago, extraordinarily well in Colorado and pretty well in Minnesota.

He did OK here. He got about a third of the vote. Didn't win but he still did pretty well in the contest four years ago.

BLITZER: At some point very soon -- fairly soon, he is going to show up and speak to his supporters where you are, Dana?

BASH: Waiting to hear on the exact timing. Earlier, we were told it would be 10:00 eastern. Obviously, they have some crowing to do and some -- some victory to claim. But I think that they are probably going to wait to see a little bit more what happens in the states of Minnesota and Colorado before they come out.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, we'll check back with you. And I'm anxious to hear if, in fact, Santorum wins in -- we have projected he will win in Missouri. If he goes out and wins in Minnesota, does well in Colorado, will the other candidates actually call him to congratulate him on an occasion like this, because there's been some sensitivity on that issue of making phone calls to congratulate the winners of these states, as you well know, Dana.

Thanks very much.

All of a sudden, a huge night unfolding for Rick Santorum. He said he was in it. He wasn't going anywhere. And probably from his perspective, Anderson, it's a good thing he didn't.

COOPER: Yes. And certainly the hope is that this will somehow for him change the narrative, at least this week. Do you believe it is enough to do that? DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's enough -- I think it will definitely change the whole storyline and narrative of what's going on. Because there's something very central about what we're seeing unfold. The Midwest is sort of like the breadbasket of American politics. There's just a big swatch of industrial states. Some people measure Pennsylvania over through Iowa, there are about eight states there, 95 electoral votes.

And if you're a Republican candidate, you have to do well in the Midwest. Here's Mitt Romney now, the front-runner, he's lost two out of three Midwestern states so far. And we don't know about the third tonight. He looks like he's behind in the third.

That is not good news for a Republican front-runner. It is obviously great news for Rick Santorum.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's a very symbolic win in Missouri because obviously it's a beauty contest. But what it does is it interrupts Mitt Romney's march toward the nomination, which is exactly what Rick Santorum wanted to do.

It gives him -- you talk about narrative. It gives him another story line, which is I'm the real conservative in this race. And it says to Republican voters, there's an alternative out there, if you're really conservative, to both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

So this -- Santorum blew off Florida and Nevada. And this is the reason why, this evening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's so interesting -- when you talk about what John has been going through four years ago, when you had a Super Tuesday that was already done, and you had 21 states decided, more than 1,000 delegates. Now, you have it kind of dripping out, bit by bit, and a Super Tuesday with only -- what is it -- 10 states? It enables someone like a Rick Santorum to get into the states, the only one, as Dana was saying, who stepped foot in Missouri, and actually do some of that grassroots campaigning that seemed to be taken away when you h ad this one day where pretty much everything is decided.

And as he was saying, four years ago, John McCain had it.

GERGEN: We thought just a little while ago that this was just going to be a romp for Romney, right through February, going to run the board, as John King has been saying. I think it's a big surprise for a lot of us in the press as well.

COOPER: If he does very well in Colorado, that would be a huge --


GERGEN: I think that would be a shocker.

BORGER: If he -- if he wins Minnesota and Missouri, at the very least, it's an embarrassment for Mitt Romney. If Mitt Romney loses Colorado, it's something more. GERGEN: Four years ago, Mitt Romney won Colorado with 60 percent of the vote.

COOPER: When we come back, we're going to take a look at results as we have them right now in Colorado. Stay tuned.


BLITZER: As you saw, CNN projects now the winner of the Missouri primary, Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator. He needed a big win. He got it in Missouri. Right now, we're awaiting results in Minnesota and Colorado. We know he's doing well in Minnesota. We'll see how well he does in Colorado. We expect Mitt Romney will do very well in Colorado as well.

But let's show you the votes as we have them right now. Let's put them up on the wall right now. We'll update you on the numbers that we have in Missouri. We have projected the winner is Rick Santorum; 33 percent of the vote is in. Look at this, 70,820 for Rick Santorum. Twenty five percent for Mitt Romney; only 32,906 votes. That's 54 percent for Rick Santorum; 25 percent for Mitt Romney. Those are actual hard votes that are counted. Ron Paul 12 percent; uncommitted five percent.

In Minnesota, 12 percent of the vote is now in. Once again -- look at this -- Rick Santorum is ahead, 44 percent to 27 percent for Ron Paul. Mitt Romney is third right now, with 12 percent of the vote in, 17 percent. Newt Gingrich fourth, 12 percent. You can see what is going on.

In Colorado, very, very early. Only one percent not even in so far. But again, Rick Santorum 50 percent; Newt Gingrich 21 percent; Mitt Romney 19; 10 percent for Ron Paul.

Jim Spellman is joining us from Castle Rock, Colorado right now. What's happening where you are, Jim?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here at Buffalo Ridge Elementary School, there are six precincts. They have now all voted. This is Carrie Bram (ph). She is the district captain for this area right here. She has just phoned in her official results.

Tell us the tally, Carrie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. We have 181 votes for Mitt Romney; 116 votes for Rick Santorum; 51 votes for Newt Gingrich; and 23 votes for Ron Paul.

SPELLMAN: There you go, Wolf. A pretty big night here for Mitt Romney, 181 for Mitt Romney, beating Rick Santorum by 116. It's been so exciting here. All these people who came to caucus, I can tell you, were having fun. They were having a good time watching this whole process unfold.


BLITZER: Stay in touch. We'll stay in touch with you as well. Anderson, let's go back to you and get some analysis.

COOPER: As you look at what happened in Missouri, what do you think made the difference for Santorum? Was it social issues? What drove this?

FLEISCHER: It's conservatives. Missouri is a socially conservative state, particularly the southwestern portion of the state. And they're the very folks who just don't trust Mitt Romney on social issues predominantly.

ERICK ERICKSON, REDSTATE.COM: I said on Sunday night this would be the first series of elections where Mitt Romney's poor comment to Soledad O'Brien would be factored in. It was to soon to happen on Sunday in Nevada. They're now factoring it in. We're now seeing the results of that.

But we're also seeing something else.

COOPER: You think that did have an impact?

ERICKSON: Yes, I think that did have an impact. Remember, with the Gingrich win in South Carolina, it was too soon after the ABC report for the Marianne Gingrich comments to be factored in South Carolina. He won women in South Carolina. You go to Florida and since then, they have been factored in.

The poor comments are now being factored in. But there's something else here as well. Channeling my inner Alex Castellanos, the reason Rick Santorum is doing well is the same reason he did well in Iowa. He did well in Iowa because he did so badly. He never caught on to until everyone else completely destroyed each other and dropped out.

He's doing well in these states because Romney and Gingrich have destroyed each other. People find them detestable. There's a reason polling has started to show that Rick Santorum is the only Republican Republicans believe can beat Barack Obama. He's the only guy running a positive, happy warrior message. The optimist wins.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: If you're the New York Giants, and you don't care if Wes Welkert (ph) got the ball, you still won the Super Bowl. At the end of the day, Rick -- the job of the candidate is to run your race and not worry about everyone else.

Santorum was smart by saying, look, let me focus on the states where I know I can do well, where I know I can win. I always believed from day one that this was going to be, in many ways, a regional campaign, a regional election. We keep focusing on -- we look at one state, then go, all of a sudden, that one state, this is what it all means.

Guess what. We have had five different narratives now on five different election nights. So if you can win two, three states that are strong for you, then you go to the south, then you go to the Midwest, you go to the West. That's what it boils down to. You run your race the best way you can, and you don't worry about the rest of the candidates.

BRAZILE: You know, there are 52 delegates at stake. And while tonight, none of the delegates will be allocated. But on March 17th, when there's proportional representation, those delegates will begin to, you know, go ahead and go to Rick Santorum. It will give him enormous momentum. It will give him an opportunity to get money, and also perhaps give him an opportunity to really solidly and unify the conservative base.

COOPER: If he's still in the race.

BRAZILE: If he's still in the race, but I believe he will be in the race.

FLEISCHER: And if you're Mitt Romney, you will pay money to keep Newt Gingrich in Rick Santorum in this race. Because what tonight could be showing is that once that gets down to a one-on-one race, Mitt Romney could have big trouble. He needs to keep the two of them in there. And they're blocking each other. That still remains the fundamental problem.

Romney needs a three-person race, and Ron Paul, too, to keep it going.

ERICKSON: I agree with the Marist poll. I realize it goes against conventional wisdom, but I think Rick Santorum's voters ultimately go to Mitt Romney. I think the Evangelical voters who trust Rick Santorum have real issues with Newt Gingrich and his personal issues. I think they go to Romney.

If you're Romney right now, you want Rick Santorum out.

COOPER: We're awaiting results right now in Minnesota, also the critical race in Colorado. We're going to bring that to you as soon as we get them. We'll take a short break. Our coverage continues.