MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) - Idaho Republicans will hold the state party's presidential caucus vote on Super Tuesday in March 2012, a move that supporters hoped would give candidates a reason besides fundraising to come to the state.
The Idaho GOP's state central committee approved the change during a meeting in Moscow Saturday, saying the previously scheduled May primary would come too late for the state to have any influence on the process. In previous election years, presidential nominations have typically been locked up before Idaho voters have had any say.
"I think it's a monumental change for the party," said Rod Beck, a former state senator who was one of the main proponents of the switch. "It's an attempt to inject Idaho values into the presidential debate. It gives us a chance to play a role in national politics."
Idaho's caucus will be scheduled for the earliest Tuesday allowed by the Republican National Committee. Only four states will hold earlier nomination contests: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
The caucus will award delegates proportionately, based on each candidate's vote percentage. If a candidate wins more than 50 percent of the delegates, they'll receive the party's entire allotment of 32 national delegates.
"We crafted the rule so that if a candidate wins the caucus, they very likely win all the delegates," said Ron Nate of Rexburg, who chaired the rules subcommittee that submitted the caucus proposal.
Had the committee gone with a straight winner-take-all system, the earliest Idaho could have held its caucus was April 1, according to national party rules.
"Eighteen states have fewer delegates than Idaho, and 10 others have about the same number," Nate said. "With our caucus being close to winner-take-all, it will be a pretty good prize."
Idaho Democrats have used a caucus to pick delegates since 1980.
Information from: Lewiston Tribune, http://www.lmtribune.com