GOP contests: What you need to know

While the national media is fixated on the outcomes of today's Republican primary contests in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado, they should not forget that today's elections do not really count; there are zero delegates at stake.

However, that does not mean they do not matter.

Colorado holds non-binding precinct caucuses, meaning that their 36 delegates will not be awarded to a candidate today, according to US News and World Report.  Rather, they will be selected in April by a combination of district conventions and the state convention.  Colorado is the only one of the three states former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is expected to win today; he won a pyhrric contest there in 2008, gaining 60 percent of the vote after the primary was effectively over.

More from GlobalPost: Mitt Romney wins Nevada by wide margin

Missouri and Minnesota will be tough battlegrounds for the current front-runner.

In Minnesota, which likewise has non-binding precinct caucuses and only four more delegates than Colorado, Romney must prove to the hard-line conservatives, who have recently seen their influence spike in the state, that he can bring their message to Washington, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.  His campaign tactics reflect this necessity; ads have begun to attack former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who pundits have identified as the conservative alternative candidate, rather than former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, his main rival.

Santorum election

The non-binding primary in Missouri will prove to be a similar contest to that in Minnesota. According to The Washington Post, Santorum has a decent shot, as conservatives expect to shy away from Romney, while Gingrich did not even make the ballot.

Gingrich told Fox News this morning that he expects to finish, "in the middle of the pack" for the day.

More from GlobalPost: Newt Gingrich pledges to "go all the way" to the Republican convention

While no state holds a meaningful election in the sense that no delegates will be awarded, the three contests today are important in either gaining or maintaining momentum for each respective campaign.

Romeny's camp has downplayed the importance of today's elections, highlighting the fact that no delegates will be selected.  Combined with the rising attacks on Santorum, pundits have sensed that there is concern coming from the Romney campaign that Santorum could gain serious momentum with a win today. MSNBC called today's contests a "do-or-die" moment for Santorum.

More from GlobalPost: Castro lambasts Republican ‘idiocy and ignorance’

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