Washington Republicans vote to select their presidential nominee on Saturday, three days before the Super Tuesday contests when 10 states will hold their primaries and caucuses. The contest has garnered attention as this is the final chance for the candidates to gain momentum before the crucial Super Tuesday contests, which will in fact decide the final GOP nominee.
In the past, Washington traditionally held its elections after the Super Tuesday contests when the race was usually over. This is the first time the state has got its due share of national attention with wide campaigning from the candidates.
The candidates have campaigned extensively in the state hoping that a victory here may influence the Super Tuesday elections. So far the GOP presidential race has remained volatile, with no clear frontrunner.
However, recent three victories in Michigan, Arizona and Wyoming have added traction to Mitt Romney's campaign. A win here would solidify his chosen candidate status.
There are a bunch of states that are going to poll on Tuesday, but you guys are first, and so your voice is going to be heard, Romney said at a campaign event in Bellevue, Wa.
Rick Santorum, who was neck and neck in competition with Romney, is hoping that a convincing performance in Washington would help him regain lost momentum, before the Tuesday polls.
Everybody is focused in on Super Tuesday. You are the voice that is going to speak very loudly before Super Tuesday and put this race on a whole other plane, said Santorum in a campaign meeting in Pasco.
Washington is also an important caucus for Texas Congressman Ron Paul who is looking for his first win in the GOP battle. The recent opinion polls indicate no clear winner for the state. The PPP (D) polls show Romney leading with 37 percent votes followed by Santorum with 32 percent, Paul at 16 percent and Newt Gingrich in the last place with 13 percent. Even so Paul has a greater chance of winning the state or at the least a close second, if the number of voters, who thronged his campaign events, are an indication of his popularity.
Paul apparently has several advantages in the state and if he could translate those into votes, then he can register his first win.
Washington is caucusing this year and the very process of caucusing is beneficial to candidates like Paul who have dedicated and activist supporters, who won't let down their cause. Caucusing requires voters to spend more time on the voting process, attend the precincts at the given timings, listen to the speeches before they cast their votes.
Caucusing is intimate and needs a good root-level organization to motivate voters to participate. This apparently benefits Paul, who has a good organization that supports him. No matter what the poll results are, the final winner will be the one who will bring maximum of supporters to the caucus. Paul has loyal supporters who would make it a point to attend the caucus and support their candidate.
Washington GOP has a history of electing moderates - a factor that is expected to work in favor of Paul.
Paul has attracted huge crowds in his campaign events throughout the state. One particular appearance in Richland drew close to 1,500 people as per media reports. Paul has also been running negative ads attacking Romney and Santorum, questioning the reliability of their credentials.
Washington has a history of staging major upsets when the state opted for caucuses over primaries, as was the case in 1988, when a less predicted candidate, televangelist Pat Robertson upset Vice President George Bush, according to a stltoday.com report.
The State GOP expects a turnout of 60,000 voters in the Saturday night's caucus, although there are around 3.7 million voters.
In any case, Washington is a non-binding caucus and results of Saturday's straw poll will not have any bearing on the apportion of the state's 40 delegates.