Republican leaders say Kansas caucus could have more sway than usual

The Wichita EagleFebruary 21, 2012 

Although Super Tuesday comes four days before Kansas Republicans gather for their presidential caucus March 10, GOP leaders are convinced there will still be plenty left for the state to decide.

Kansas will be the biggest Republican test on the next poll date after 10 states go to the polls for Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses March 6. Super Tuesdays in the past have often slammed the door on some presidential campaigns and opened the floodgates for the front runner.

Not this year, GOP observers say.

“It’s still wide open,” Clay Barker, executive director of the state Republican Party said Monday. “I don’t think the race will be decided on Super Tuesday. I don’t think anyone will come out the overwhelming, clear leader and people withdraw right after that.

“If anything, it may be a chance (for a candidate) to show momentum in a Republican state.”

All four of the GOP candidates still in the running – Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum – have plunked down $10,000 each to the state party so their names can be on the caucus ballot. Kansas will have a caucus in 98 locations in 92 counties, Barker said. Johnson County will have seven sites. The lone caucus in Sedgwick County will be held at the Century II Convention Center in Wichita.

“This selection is far from wrapped up,” said Bob Dool, Sedgwick County’s Republican Party chairman.

There are 40 delegates at stake in Kansas. Dool said he expects 4,000 to 5,000 to turn out for the caucus in Sedgwick County, which is about the same number who showed up four years ago.

Doors for the caucus open at 8 a.m., and the event starts at 10 a.m. Each candidate’s campaign will be given 10 minutes for a speech, followed by voting. The caucus is a “closed” caucus, meaning only registered Republicans will be allowed to vote. Photo identification will be required. Deadline for registration to vote in the caucus was Friday.

Gingrich, Paul and Santorum are all actively campaigning in Kansas, Barker said, but Romney hasn’t.

“I don’t know if (Romney) has written us off or he’ll come charging in,” Barker said.

Since Kansas is the only state holding a caucus or primary on March 10, he said it’s possible at least some of the candidates will show up at one of the state’s caucus sites. None of the GOP candidates has committed to coming to Sedgwick County, Dool said.

Brandon Rudkin, director of Santorum’s Kansas campaign, said there has been discussion about the former Pennsylvania senator attending the caucus in Wichita. “Nothing is set,” he said.

Santorum opened an office in Wichita, 155 N. Market, Suite 110, on Monday. He’s the only presidential candidate who has a local office in Wichita, Dool said.

Santorum’s campaign also plans to hold a barbeque for the public at noon Saturday at its Wichita headquarters.

State Democrats will have their caucus April 14, although their process is diffused because they have the incumbent president. In 2008, the Kansas Democrats went for Barack Obama over former first lady and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton.

To read more, visit www.kansas.com.

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