Ron Paul actually won Minnesota's GOP presidential caucus, it turns out

Surprise! Minnesota isn't Santorum Country after all.
Surprise! Minnesota isn't Santorum Country after all.

Remember all that stuff you read about Rick Santorum winning Minnesota's February Republican presidential caucus?

Forget you ever saw it. Because last weekend, the Republican votes that matter the most were cast at Minnesota's district conventions, and Ron Paul won the majority of them.

Paul won 20 of the 24 national delegates decided last weekend. 13 more will be awarded at next month's statewide GOP convention, where Paul is also expected to do well.

Minnesota's February caucus is non-binding. The state's official nomination of a presidential candidate doesn't happen until the statewide convention, and delegates aren't mandated to vote for the candidate they supported during the caucus.

Consider 2008. That year, Romney trounced his competitors during the Minnesota caucus, winning 41 percent of the vote compared to second-place John McCain's 22 percent. But by the time the state convention came around in late May, McCain had emerged as the national choice, and the Minnesota delegates fell in line, awarding all 41 of the state's delegates to the Arizona senator.

Paul's delegates still could line up behind Romney come convention time, but that seems unlikely -- Paul has repeatedly said he plans to remain in the race all the way through the Republican National Convention in August.

During the February caucus, Santorum won with 45 percent of the vote, with Paul coming in second at 27 percent. But, citing the passion of his supporters, the Texas Congressman said that night that "when the dust settles, I think there's a very good chance we're gonna have the maximum number of delegates coming out of Minnesota." Turns out he was right.

Paul also somehow ended up with the most delegates in Iowa and is hoping for similar delegate coups in Colorado and Maine, with the resulting momentum hopefully propelling him to a strong showing in Texas' May 29 primary.

Paul's campaign adviser characterized the Romney campaign as in a "panic" after receiving word of the Minnesota and Iowa results. In fact, the International Business Times -- citing Warren G. Harding's 1920 campaign, in which he won that year's fractious Republican nominating convention (and eventually the presidency) after heading into the convention with the fewest delegates of any remaining candidate -- said the delegate coups demonstrate "a possible path to the White House" for Paul.

But before you wipe the cobwebs off your Ron Paul 2012 yard sign, keep in mind that Paul hasn't done well in the non-caucus primaries. In fact, according to the Associated Press, Paul currently is in last place in the delegate count, trailing presumptive nominee Mitt Romney and the other candidates. Paul has 67 delegates to Romney's 697, Santorum's 269 and Newt Gingrich's 137. It takes 1,144 delegates to cinch the nomination.

See also:
-- Santorum's low-turnout, symbolic Minnesota victory signals Republican dissatisfaction

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