Practice makes perfect

Test-run Idaho caucus win goes to Romney

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COEUR d'ALENE - By now, most people know Ron Paul won Idaho's first-ever GOP presidential straw poll held Friday in Boise.

What many do not know, is that a trial Republican presidential caucus was held Saturday, during the party's state committee meeting, the day after the straw poll.

Those results were much different.

Tina Jacobsen, chair of the Kootenai County Republican Party's executive committee, said she doesn't think the difference in the results is significant.

"It shouldn't be, because the straw poll was a fundraiser," Jacobsen told The Press.

The cost to cast a straw poll vote was $30, and voting was open to anyone, not just registered Republicans.

In the non-binding poll, Paul came in first with 173 of the 399 votes cast.

Mitt Romney followed with 135 votes, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came in third, with 47 votes.

The following day, nearly 160 Republicans attended the state committee meeting.

In the smaller, purely Republican test-run caucus, Romney received 59 votes, Paul received 34, and Rick Santorum came in third, with 33 votes.

"It's two different groups of people, really," Jacobsen said of the straw poll voters and the trial caucus.

The boxes used to collect the straw poll votes on Friday were the same ones used during the committee meeting vote on Saturday.

The trial caucus, in preparation for Super Tuesday on March 6, was about procedure and speed, Jacobsen said.

"It took about 20 minutes for them to vote," Jacobsen said. "I think that went very well."

Super Tuesday will be the Idaho GOP's first Republican presidential caucus, and Republican county committees throughout the state will be participating.

The party decided last year to hold a caucus in March, rather than a closed primary in May, in an effort to give Idaho more of a voice in nominating a presidential candidate.

Matt Roetter, Kootenai County Republican State Committeeman, told The Press he did not support a presidential caucus instead of a primary.

Roetter wrote, in an email message, that the straw poll doesn't carry the political weight that the trial caucus does.

"The trial caucus is by far a better indicator of the results of the upcoming Idaho Republican Presidential Caucus," Roetter wrote.

Trial caucus voters are mostly members of each Idaho County Republican Central Committee which are the leadership or executive board members of 44 Idaho counties, Roetter said.

"These voters are the backbone of the Idaho Republican Party and are most representative of Idaho Republican voters," he added.

Full details of the Kootenai County caucus, including the location, are still being formalized, but Jacobsen said it will likely begin at 7 p.m. Any registered Republican is eligible to participate, she said, and voters can declare their party affiliation on March 6, at the caucus.

"But we are encouraging people to do it ahead of time, because the doors will be closed at 7 p.m.," Jacobsen said. "You might not be able to make it in, if you have to party affiliate at the door."

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