How closely have you been following this process so far?


Republicans in Minnesota will have their first chance to weigh in on the presidential election tonight, when the party will caucus in precincts across the state.

GOP voters will be asked to choose among front-runner and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

Democrats also will gather in caucus meetings, but the big event of the night will be the Republicans’ presidential straw poll.

There are no delegates up for grabs at the Minnesota Republican Party caucuses, only bragging rights. The straw poll also is nonbinding, so the results will have little to do with how Minnesota’s delegates eventually will be allocated at the Republican National Convention.

But the caucuses are the first step in a winnowing process that will send delegates to Republican and Democratic county conventions, congressional district conventions, state and eventually national conventions. The 4,137 local community meetings on each side also will give those who turn out the chance to debate and vote on issues they think are important.

Aiming to lure voter support, the presidential candidates have started paying attention to Minnesota in recent days, both in person and with TV ads.

Four years ago, contests between Republican candidates Mike Huckabee, John McCain and Mitt Romney and Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama lured record numbers of Minnesotans to the caucuses. That year, more than 200,000 attended DFL caucuses and 60,000 showed up on the GOP side.

via Minnesota precinct caucuses tonight | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.