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When It Comes to Delegates, Presidential Race Is Just Beginning

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After five voting contests, 143 delegates have been awarded and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney currently holds a comfortable lead with 85 projected delegates. Newt Gingrich is in a relatively distant second place, with 29 projected delegates -- 56 delegates behind Romney. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul round it out with 16 and 9 projected delegates, respectively.

On Tuesday Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri will hold voting contests. A total of 76 delegates are up for grabs in those states. Missouri will not be awarding any delegates until its March 17 contest. Those delegates will be awarded proportionally, so it is likely that each candidate will receive a share.

Romney is expected to win or at least do very well in two of those states. He won Colorado in 2008 with 60 percent of the vote, and in Minnesota he has had the backing of former Gov. Tim Pawlenty for several months. However, both of the states have strong conservative leanings and Rick Santorum has been campaigning hard in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

The next state on the calendar after Tuesday’s contests is Maine, which will end its week of caucusing on February 11 and award 24 delegates on a proportional basis. Romney also won Maine in 2008, but Ron Paul performed strongly, and he has a large following in the fiercely independent state.

Some 202 delegates will be doled out over the next month before Super Tuesday on March 6.

If Romney loses any of the aforementioned states, with the exception of Missouri, he’ll still be awarded some delegates. However, his lead would narrow, and leave him increasingly vulnerable heading into Super Tuesday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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