Washington State a Beauty Contest for GOP Presidential Hopefuls
A funny thing happened on the way to the 2012 presidential primary in Washington state.
In a cost-cutting measure, Washington legislators and the Secretary of State cancelled the statewide primary to save taxpayers $10 million. That means delegates will not be chosen during Saturday’s caucuses across the Evergreen State, rendering the caucuses little more than a beauty contest for Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.
Little did Washington state officials figure that the entire country would be casting a curious eye to the Pacific Northwest for Saturday’s Republican presidential caucuses, which in the past used to bind half of the state’s 43 delegates to the winning candidate. The other half of the delegates are traditionally designated during a later primary.
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But this year, in a bid to shrink government spending, Washington state will have to settle for yielding mostly symbolic results — especially since the open primary format allows any registered voter in the state to caucus. How much that will skew results remains to be seen, but state officials are looking for upwards of 60,000 residents to turn out Saturday.
For Santorum, the social-issues conservative and former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, Washington state’s caucuses are being viewed as another chance for GOP voters to slow frontrunner Romney’s bid to seal the party’s nomination.
Santorum stumped in Spokane on Thursday, appealing to conservative Washington voters to not vote for a “good ol’ boy.” Romney, meanwhile, was met by about 2,000 supporters in Bellevue, where he tried to solidify his footing after wins last week in Arizona and Michigan.
In 2008, Romney finished third in the Washington caucuses behind John McCain and Mike Huckabee. He was out of the race by the time the 2008 primary was held, which saw McCain, Huckabee and Ron Paul as the top three finishers.
This time, however, Washington’s greatest role for Republicans in the 2012 presidential primary season will be to signal momentum heading into Super Tuesday, where delegates from 10 battleground states like Ohio and Virginia are up for grabs.
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