President Carter emerged the clear winner in the Minnesota precinct caucuses -- the first step in selecting the Gopher State's 75 delegates to the Democratic National Convention this summer.
With one-half of the state's precincts reporting, the Republican candidates, who are vying for 34 delegates to their national convention, were led by former California Gov. Ronald Reagan. Mr. Reagan held a 3 percentage-point lead over former UN ambassador George Bush -- with Rep. John B. Anderson of Illinois unexpectedly clinging to third place.
Using an 80-precinct sample, an Associated Press poll gave 54 percent of the votes to Mr. Carter, 6 percent to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, and 1.7 percent to Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. of California -- with 38 percent undecided.
A separate sample, taken by the Carter-Mondale campaign, attempted to identify candidate preference among those who were selected to attend the county conventions March 15-30.
According to projections based on that sample, 72 percent support President Carter, 8 percent support Senator Kennedy, 3 percent support Governor Brown, and about 18 percent are uncommitted.
Expectations ran high in the Carter- Mondale camp, since this is Vice-President Walter Mondale's home state, but they have been surpassed.
As for the Republicans, Mr. Reagan held a 33 to 30 percent lead over Mr. Bush. Representative anderson received 13 percent of the vote, followed by 7 percent for Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee, 6 percent for former Texas Gov. John B. Connally, 3 percent for Illinois Rep. Philip M. Crane, and 1 percent for Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas -- with 6 percent undecided.