Friday, March 9, 2012

Romney takes Blaine County, state

Ron Paul comes in distant 2nd

Express Staff Writer

Ballot counters sort ballots into boxes Tuesday night during the first-ever Blaine County GOP caucus. By 8 p.m., when all ballots were collected, many of the votes found their way to the box of Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney. Photo by Willy Cook

Nearly 400 votes were cast in Blaine County's first-ever Republican caucus on Tuesday night, and current GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney walked away with the majority of them on his way to winning the rest of the state.

A total of 380 votes were cast in Blaine County on Super Tuesday, as voters across the state and in nine others chose the candidate they would like to see pitted against President Barack Obama in November.

Of those county votes, Mitt Romney gained 230, or 61 percent. The four other candidates finished well behind. Ron Paul placed second with nearly 21 percent of the vote, beating out Rick Santorum (6 percent) and Newt Gingrich (12 percent). Paul finished second in Idaho overall, tying Santorum with 18 percent of the vote.

Romney's 60 percent showing in Blaine County was slightly less than his statewide showing of 62 percent.

By winning a majority of the votes, Romney garnered all 32 of Idaho's delegates.

But the winner of the primary may have come as less of a surprise than the turnout at the Blaine County caucus.

Voters—many of whom came with families with school-age children—nearly filled the bleachers at the Wood River Middle School gymnasium, enjoying patriotic music, cookies and spirited political debate.

"We should start by thanking God for a miracle," joked Blaine County Republican Chair Ed Terrazas in his opening remarks before the voting. "I had no idea there were this many Republicans in Blaine County."

Terrazas followed his remarks with a prayer, asking for guidance and wisdom for all those set to cast their ballots that night. That was followed by a flag ceremony conducted by members of Cub Scout Den 191 while Girl Scout Erica Lynn led the group in singing the national anthem.

These opening events were followed by passionate speeches by local Paul and Romney supporters and a video proclaiming the virtues of each candidate. Santorum's camp was not represented and Gingrich's campaign sent a video.

Voting only lasted one round, with Romey gaining his majority early on in the evening.

Terrazas said that more important than the winner of the caucus was the fact that the Republican Party nationwide needed to gain more energy, spark more interest in candidates and raise more money to defeat Obama.

"It's obvious America is in a world of hurt," he said. "We can't even buy the Band-Aids to fix us up without borrowing the money."

Romney did well in most counties across the state, but lost badly in Bonner, Clearwater, Kootenai and Idaho counties, where he did not garner a single vote. Santorum and Paul split those counties, with Paul also winning Boundary, Camas and Nez Perce counties while Santorum took Benewah, Lewis, Owyhee, Shoshone and Washington counties.

Gingrich failed to reach a majority in any county in the state.

All four candidates will continue to the Kansas primary elections Saturday, March 10, and the Mississippi, Alabama and Hawaii preliminary elections on March 13.

Though none of the candidates are near the 1,144 delegates threshold needed for nomination, Romney told members of the national press Wednesday that it would take "an act of God" for any of the other candidates to overtake him.

Katherine Wutz:

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