With 100% of the vote now counted, Mitt Romney has won the Wyoming Republican caucuses held on January 5th, 2007. The up-to-the-minute coverage on AOL News shows the following breakdown:
Mitt Romney: 67% of the vote, 8 delegates won.
Fred Thompson: 25%, 3 delegates.
Duncan Hunter: 8%, 1 delegate.
Rudy Giuliani: 0%, 0 delegates.
Mike Huckabee: 0%, 0 delegates.
John McCain: 0%, 0 delegates.
Ron Paul: 0%, 0 delegates.
In addition to the 12 delegates chosen during the January 5th caucuses, two more delegates will be chosen at a statewide convention on May 30-31. All 14 will be sent to the Republican national convention in Minneapolis.
The Wyoming Democratic Caucus is scheduled for March 8th, 2008.
According to reports from the Deseret Morning News and the Salt Lake Tribune, Wyoming caucus results are binding upon its convention delegates. As a result, the state's Republican Party got penalized by the Republican National Committee (RNC) for jumping the February 5th deadline, losing half of the 28 delegates to which Wyoming was originally entitled. In contrast, Iowa and Nevada (whose caucus will be held on January 19th), will not be penalized because their caucus results are not binding upon their respective convention delegates. The Wyoming GOP apparently decided in advance that the additional publicity garnered for the state by breaching the February 5th deadline outweighed the 50% delegate penalty imposed by the RNC.
While Duncan Hunter, Fred Thompson, and Ron Paul visited Wyoming at various times before the caucuses, Mitt Romney, by comparison, covered the state like a blanket. Romney himself visited Wyoming in August and November, and three of his five sons campaigned in the state. One son, Josh Romney, owns a ranch in southwest Wyoming. "I think we're encouraged that the voters in Wyoming value that my dad had spent time here," Josh Romney said.
And residents attached greater value to those candidates who visited the state in person. "Number one, he campaigned here," delegate Leigh Vosler of Cheyenne said of Romney. "I think that helped while some other candidates ignored us. But also he's the right person for the job."
In contrast, Iowa Republican winner Mike Huckabee, along with John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, did not visit Wyoming and drew little support.
However, some observers believe that, because of the way the caucus was organized, Ron Paul never really had an honest shot, regardless of how much he canvassed the state. On the Lew Rockwell blog, Eric Garris explains why this might have been the case:
The Wyoming county conventions were NOT open to Republican voters. Eligible delegates consisted of only two groups: Republican party officials who were elected in 2006; and delegates who were appointed (by established precinct organizations) to fill empty delegate seats. The rules are explained here.
Each county convention elected either one delegate or one alternate. They were assigned one or the other by the state party based on past vote totals for GOP candidates in their county.
Each county convention was presented with delegate candidates, who were either pledged to a Presidential candidate or unpledged. The winner in each county had to get over 50%, so runoffs were held.
In most cases, the winning delegate candidates were county party leaders who were chosen because of who they were, rather than who they are supporting for President.
Wyoming's system is a throwback to the old days of backroom nominations. There was little chance for new party activists to participate in this process, only old-timers made the choice.
Since a disproportionate percentage of Ron Paul supporters are politicalnewcomers, or what one might characterize as "insurgents", this means the existing system was not flexible enough to permit their full participation. Thus the deck was already stacked against Ron Paul by the party "pros".
The question now is will this Wyoming win be significant enough to give Romney a needed bump in New Hampshire on Tuesday January 8th. The latest batch of New Hampshire state polls, presented by Real Clear Politics, continue to show a trend towards John McCain, who leads in one poll by as many as 14 percentage points. One noteworthy deviation; the latest Rasmussen poll shows Ron Paul with 14%. The Zogby polls proved to be the most accurate predictor for Iowa and should be given close attention.
Some pundits believe that if Mitt Romney doesn't win in New Hampshire, he'll have to bow out of the race. I don't buy this theory; Romney has too much of his own money to pour into the race. But if Romney wants to remain a credible candidate, he'll have to finish a close second, at the very worse. Any finish lower than second will call his political credibility into serious question. If McCain wins New Hampshire, he automatically shifts into the driver's seat.
And that 14% total for Ron Paul registered by Rasmussen could be a harbringer of things to come. It shows that a solid third place finish for Paul in New Hampshire is quite possible. Consequently, here are my predictions for the top three Republican finishers in New Hampshire:
John McCain: 32%
Mitt Romney: 30%
Ron Paul: 15%
BTW, Ron Paul is scheduled to appear on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Monday January 7th. Further discussion of the Wyoming caucus available on the Ron Paul Forums and on the Vanguard News Network Forum.