Romney wins Wyoming Rep. caucuses

January 7, 2008 1:31:09 PM PST
Mitt Romney's attention to Wyoming paid off Saturday as he won most of the 12 presidential delegates at stake in the state's Republican county conventions.

The former Massachusetts governor won six of the first eight to be selected Saturday. Fred Thompson and California Rep. Duncan Hunter, who both also visited Wyoming, won one apiece, meaning no other candidate could beat Romney. Caucuses were still meeting.

Coming two days after the Iowa caucuses and three days before the New Hampshire primary, the early date of the Wyoming GOP county conventions was intended to draw candidates' attention to the state but had only modest results.

Republican hopefuls Romney, Hunter, Fred Thompson and Ron Paul all stopped by the state -- visits they probably wouldn't have made except for this year's early conventions -- and candidates have sent Wyoming's GOP voters a flood of campaign mail.

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who won the Iowa caucus on Thursday, did not visit Wyoming and drew little support. Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani also did not visit and received little support.

The traditional leadoff nomination contests in Iowa and New Hampshire have dominated the attention of both candidates and the national media in recent months, and no candidates had visited Wyoming in the four weeks leading up to the caucuses. Hunter was the last to visit the state on Dec. 4.

Tom Sansonetti, the county convention organizer, maintained Saturday that moving the state's caucuses ahead was the right thing to do.

"The ultimate goal is not how many times we appear on Katie Couric," Sansonetti said. "The ultimate goal was to have attention paid to rank-and-file Republicans by national candidates."

In addition, he said more Wyoming Republicans have become involved in the process.

Wyoming Republicans also paid a price for jumping ahead. The Republican National Committee has slashed half of Wyoming's 28 national convention delegates. National party leaders similarly penalized Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire and South Carolina for moving up the dates of their nomination contests.

RNC rules require the punishment for states that hold their nominating contests earlier than Feb. 5. Iowa, which held caucuses on Thursday, will not be penalized because, technically, the caucuses are not binding on convention delegates. Nevada, which plans to hold its caucuses on Jan. 19, will not be penalized for the same reason.

Besides the 12 delegates chosen at Saturday's county conventions, two delegates to be chosen at a statewide convention in May will also be sent to the national convention in Minneapolis.