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Delegate-wise, these three contests count for very little

The Republican National Committee sent out a reminder about the three presidential nominating contests last night: They are not relevant in the hunt for delegates.

An e-mail from RNC communications director Sean Spicer made clear to reporters: “For those of you covering the race for the GOP presidential nomination and writing about the current delegate count, please keep in mind that no delegates will be awarded.’’

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The caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota and primary in Missouri are three examples of contests that have received attention from candidates and the press but have little practical implication in the race for delegates. Rick Santorum’s dominant performance last night leaves little argument about their symbolic heft, yet not one delegate was gained.

The spate of nonbinding contests is the result of several factors, including the desire of states to vote early enough to be meaningful in the selection process, combined with rules that give states incentives to choose their nominees later on.

While some state officials are thrilled to see candidates criss-crossing their states, not everyone is happy about it. “We’re having a $7 million straw poll, while we’re cutting $500 million from our budget,’’ said state Senator Kevin Engler, a Missouri Republican who sponsored a bill to eliminate his state’s primary.

The caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota are a chance for voters to make their preferences known. But Colorado’s 36 delegates will be chosen at district conventions followed by a state convention April 14, Spicer wrote. Minnesota’s 40 delegates will be chosen at district conventions in April and a state convention May 5. Missouri’s delegates will be chosen beginning with caucuses in March and ending with a state convention June 2.

Linda Fowler, professor of government at Dartmouth College, said the difference in state voting processes shows a “widespread differentiation in the strength of parties in different states.’’

For example, voters in Minnesota can voice their preference, but state party officials have more leeway to influence the choice of delegates through the convention process.

Shira Schoenberg can be reached at sschoenberg@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shiraschoenberg.
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