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Rubio, Sanders campaigns succeed in Minnesota

Minnesota's part of Super Tuesday produced super turnouts and some different results than most of the 11 other states weighing in on the nominees for president with wins for Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders.

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Zachary Marko of Shoreview takes a call Tuesday night about where a Minnesotan can attend a precinct caucus. (DON DAVIS | FORUM NEWS SERVICE)

Minnesota’s part of Super Tuesday produced super turnouts and some different results than most of the 11 other states weighing in on the nominees for president with wins for Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders.

Bombastic businessman Donald Trump called Rubio a “little senator” while addressing the media while Super Tuesday was in full swing.

Florida’s junior member of the U.S. Senate responded by turning in a big win in the Minnesota caucus.

Rubio was active in the state considered to be up for grabs, and a projected record turnout favored him over rivals Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

“I think it helps a lot that the campaign decided to send him here twice in the last week,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, chairman of Rubio’s campaign in Minnesota. “We’ve had staff here, an office here, hundreds of volunteers.”

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Trump was largely thought to be the driving factor of voter turnout, but it was Rubio who seemed to drive voters to caucus sites, particularly in the Twin Cities.
“I think (Rubio supporters) are excited about Rubio, and I think they’re concerned about who their candidate will be,” Johnson said.

Trump did not visit Minnesota ahead of Super Tuesday and his campaign had little organization in the state.

Sanders won throughout Minnesota, and did it surprisingly easily.

Sanders took Minnesota presidential caucus votes from farm country, the Iron Range and urban areas, and most of the rest of Minnesota.

He led Hillary Clinton 60 percent to 40 percent late Tuesday. Democrats project Sanders would receive 46 delegates to Clinton's 31 after a complex formula is applied to statewide and congressional district votes.

Chairman Ken Martin of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party called it "a very decisive victory here in Minnesota this evening."

Martin and most other DFL leaders had backed Clinton, but the chairman said Minnesota is a progressive state and Sanders is a progressive politician.

"We at the party could not be more excited," Martin said about overflow caucuses. "We saw people we never have seen in our party before."

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Martin said it appeared that Sanders would win each of the state's eight congressional districts.

Some Twin Cities precincts reported not only long lines of people waiting to get into caucus meetings, but blocks-long lines of cars with Democrats wanting to vote for presidential candidates.

The Democratic hopefuls this year were in the state several times since its caucuses were part of Super Tuesday, with a dozen states picking presidential nomination delegates.

Sanders stopped in Minnesota three straight days leading up to Super Tuesday and Clinton, a former secretary of state, campaigned hours before the state precinct caucuses began.

Martin said cities ranging from St. Cloud to Moorhead also reported large turnouts.

Some Minneapolis and Red Wing precincts ran out of ballots, and more needed to be printed. A Duluth voting site also ran out.

"Most of the major population centers are seeing a very, very huge turnout," Martin said.

Cottage Grove Middle School was overflowing with DFL caucus-goers, and the turnout was even more than the party expected.

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"We knew there was going to be a lot of people, but not this many," Senate District 54 Chairwoman Diana Tunheim said.

Minnesota offers 93 delegates to the Democratic National Convention this July, with 2,383 delegates needed to win the nomination.

Twenty-seven delegates will be proportionally based on the statewide caucus vote, with 50 divided based on votes in the state's congressional districts. Sixteen Democratic officials are not bound by caucus vote and may pick their own presidential candidates.

Sanders stopped in Hibbing, Rochester and the Twin Cities in recent days.In many of his stops, Sanders delivers a standard speech with little talk about local issues important to people in the crowd. He broke with that Friday when he visited Hibbing.

"I do understand what’s going on up here on the Iron Range, about the loss of many, many, many hundreds of good paying jobs because cheap Chinese steel is being dumped in the United States of America," Sanders told the crowd in the local high school.

Clinton returned to the Twin Cities on Tuesday, stopping by a cafe and the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis.

For Republicans, reports of packed precincts were common on social media. Republican Chairman Keith Downey confirmed at least one polling place ran out of ballots, but said backup measures were in place and working properly at that location.

Minnesotans had already surpassed its past record of about 79,000 participating in the caucus by 9:30 p.m., and Downey projected that number would top 100,000 by the end of vote counting.

At the Republican Caucuses at East Ridge High School in Woodbury, an overflow parking lot was full and an estimated 2,500 people had gathered. Inside was 17-year-old Nate Peterfefo of Woodbury, who will be just old enough in November to vote. He's is leaning toward Trump.

"He brings up the issues no one else wants to talk about, like immigration. I'll say one thing, he's sure getting people to caucuses."

Rubio carried more than 41,000 votes (36.8 percent) with 92 percent of precincts reporting. Cruz followed with 28.9 percent, and Trump had 21.2 percent. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Ohio Gov. John Kasich lagged well behind.

Official delegate counts are unavailable until certified by the Republican National Committee, but unofficial results showed the state’s 38 delegates being nearly evenly distributed amongst the top three vote-getters.

Even three state Republican leaders who are automatic delegates must cast votes based on caucus returns.

It has been more than two decades since Republican caucus-night votes were used to apportion delegates. Instead, the GOP vote was merely a contest to give bragging rights to the winner.

Minnesota offers 93 delegates to the Democratic National Convention this July, with 2,383 delegates needed to win the nomination.

Twenty-seven delegates will be proportionally based on the statewide caucus vote, with 50 divided based on votes in the state's congressional districts. Sixteen Democratic officials are not bound by caucus vote and may pick their own presidential candidates.

Before caucus night, Sanders said he was relying on a good turnout, which would have meant many Democrats who may not usually attend caucuses showing up for him.

"We can win, no question, right here in Minnesota, if we have the turnout," Sanders told a Minneapolis crowd of 2,300 Monday.

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