Mitt Romney has won the 2012 Washington Republican caucuses.
With 76.8 percent of the results in, Mitt Romney was declared the winner of the Washington state GOP caucuses with 36.2 percent of the vote. Ron Paul edged out Rick Santorum to come in second with 25.1 percent; Santorum came in third with 24.4 percent; and Newt Gingrich came in fourth with 10.8 percent of the vote, according to Politico.
Washington state has gained a new prominence in the GOP primaries this year. Rather than following tradition and being held after Super Tuesday, which is on March 6 this year, and where ten states will be up for grabs in one night, Washington's caucuses were slated for the weekend before.
There are a bunch of states that are going to make up their minds on Tuesday, Mitt Romney told potential voters at a campaign event in Bellevue. But you guys are first, and so your voice is going to be heard.
This is the first time any one GOP presidential candidate has paid attention to us in recent memory, and my memory goes back to the 1970s, Kirby Wilbur, chairman of the Washington state Republican Party, told CNN. We used to be the ugly sister invited to the dance, but no one even asked us to dance. Now we are the princess.
Romney and Santorum both campaigned rigorously in Washington this week, but they left the state for the weekend to stump in Ohio, one of the most important states up for grabs on March 6. Ron Paul, however, stayed behind to campaign and run ads, a move that helps explain his 14-point lead over Newt Gingrich, who spent little time there. It has also given him enough momentum to best Rick Santorum, who had been leading the state polls in February.
As a result of the candidates' attentions and the new significance of their ballots, Washington voters came out in droves this year, far exceeding the 12,616 who turned out for the 2008 caucuses. Early estimates put the number of expected voters at between 40,000 and 60,000, and caucus organizers report that the number of voters appeared to be at least double the number who voted in the last presidential primary season.
Mitt Romney's victory in the Washington caucuses comes on the heels of his most recent wins in Michigan and Arizona, finishing off the month with a much needed streak after Santorum's surprise triple victory in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado in early February.
Both he and Ron Paul were likely helped by the fact that Washington hosts an open caucus, meaning that independent voters and even registered Democrats could cast their votes on Saturday.
Forty delegates were up for grabs in Washington state, as well as three automatic delegates for the Republican National Convention. While delegates to the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., in August won't be determined until the state convention in June, major news organizations will make delegate estimates based on the results in Washington.