In Minn., rightward drift challenges Romney

PATRICK CONDON Associated Press Published:

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Mitt Romney could face a significant challenge in Minnesota.

The mood has changed since the former Massachusetts governor won the state's caucuses in 2008. A state that once took pride in political consensus has turned as contentious as any other. Last summer's bitter government shutdown was a lowlight.

Romney campaigned four years ago as the more conservative choice than Arizona Sen. John McCain. This time around, Romney is the mainstream front-runner up against more conservative rivals, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

And that makes Tuesday's caucuses unpredictable. Chuck Slocum led Minnesota Republicans in the mid-1970s. He says the activists expected to dominate small turnout are among the most conservative in the country.