Romney looks to cement frontrunner status

DENVER — Republicans go to the polls in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri Tuesday.

Mitt Romney wants to lock up his status as frontrunner, while Newt Gingrich is looking for a way to stay in the race.

After taking a beating in the last two states, Gingrich says he's retooling his campaign and getting back to what he does best — bashing the "elite" media and defending conservatism. "The elite media," he said at one stop, "would love to talk us into nominating another moderate. They want Obama re-elected."

Gingrich is down but not out. He's vowing to fight to the end, all the way to August and the Republican convention.

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On Sean Hannity's radio show Monday, he came out firing against a favorite target: the media, saying, "They wake up every morning thinking, 'Gee, there must be some way we can get Gingrich out of this race."'

Gingrich is sticking with a combative message that worked in South Carolina, where he was dominant.

But in the next few weeks, he isn't expected to make much headway.

Tuesday's contests in Colorado and Minnesota aren't expected to go his way. Some polls indicate he could even lose to Rick Santorum. And in Missouri, he's not even on the ballot.

But Gingrich isn't focused on February. He's looking at March, when he hopes to start racking up wins in Southern states: Tennessee and his home state of George vote March 6, and Alabama and Mississippi a week later.

Romney is campaigning hard in them all, drawing thousands at a rally Monday night near Denver, complete with a high school marching band. "This president," he told the crowd, "was elected to lead. He decided to follow. And now he has to get out of the way."

Romney is keeping his focus on the president. But a new poll shows suggests Gingrich's attacks have hurt, and that Romney could have some trouble in a race against Mr. Obama.

As the race has gotten more negative, people have increasingly negative views of both Romney and Gingrich. By a 2-to-1 margin, Americans say the more they learn about Romney, the less they like him.

The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, says he's not worried. "I think," he says, "the primary fight as it stands is actually helping the Republican Party. I think it makes our candidates stronger. I think it forces the media to talk about our side of the aisle almost nonstop."

Rick Santorum has been campaigning hard in all three states with voting Tuesday, and is expected to have a strong showing. He says, like Gingrich and Ron Paul, he's not getting out of this rac,e so it could go on for awhile."

To see Jan Crawford's report, click on the video in the player above.

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    Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Political and Legal Correspondent. She is from "Crossroads," Alabama.

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